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Contributors 



Ford McCormack writes about himself: "I was born in Seattle. 
Wash. — a distinction shared with two or three million other people. 

. . Have taken up residence in Southern California, along with a 
few million other out-of-staters. ... I am or have been an amateur 
acrobat, pianist, hobo and several other things. In the last year or 
so, being fed up with this eternal amateur status. I have joined the 
sizable body of professional writers to whom editors have not yet 
begun to write pleading letters." 

John Christopher is an English writer, aged 28, married. He be- 
came a science-fiction fan around the age of ten; at one stage ran 
a fan magazine called Fantast. Shortly after being demobilized by 
the Army, late in 1946, he was granted an Atlantic Award in Litera- 
ture under a scheme to assist promising but indigent British writers, 
sponsored by the Rockefeller Institute of New York. He has had 
one novel published and two more are scheduled for 1951. He 
classes himself as a medievalist, believing that our civilization took 
the wrong turning at the Renaissance and is now, very probably. 

on the wav out. 

* • 

Bob Tucker, alias Wilson Tucker (under which name he is the 
author of such best-selling detective novels as The Chinese Doll 
and To Keep Or Kill) is an angular Midwestern type who looks a 
little like Hoagy Carmichael and has a similar relaxed attitude to- 
ward lite and letters. He has been active in amateur fantasy pub- 
lishing for many years, and at present edits and publishes an attrac- 
tive lithographed information sheet, Science Fiction News Letter, 
which is universally acclaimed the best in its field. He lives in Bloom- 
ington, Illinois. 



(Continued on 



inside hack cover) 



WORLDS 
BEYOND 



JANUARY, 1951 
VOLUME 1, NO. 1 



NOVELETTE 

MARCH HARE MISSION by Ford McCormack 2 
SHORT STORIES 

TREE OF WRATH by John Christopher 28 

THE TOURIST TRADE by Bob Tucker 44 

GHOST OF MR. KITCAT by Rumer Godden 54 

SURVIVAL SHIP by Judith Merril 59 

"NAAM" by R. E. Morrough 68 

THE GREEN CAT by Cleve Cartmill 78 

THE SUPREMACY OF URUGUAY by E. B. White .... 84 

THE FITTEST by Katherine Maclean 88 

A MATTER OF FACT by Rudyard Kipling 104 

NULL-P by William Tenn . 117 

DEPARTMENT 

THE DISSECTING TABLE 101 

Cover by Van Dongen; illustrations by Harrison, Janrace and Napoli 
DAMON KNIGHT, Editor 



WORLDS BEYOND is published monthly by Hillman Periodicals, Inc., at 4600 
Diversey Ave., Chicago, 111. Editorial office, 535 Fifth Avenue, New York 17, 
N. Y. Application for entry as second-class matter is pending at the post office 
at Chicago, 111. Price, 25c a copy; subscriptions $3.00 a year in the United States 
and Canada. Copyright 1950 by Hillman Periodicals, Inc. The publishers assume 
no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts, which should be accompanied by 
stamped self-addressed envelopes. All characters in stories are fictional, and any re- 
semblance to a real person is coincidental. Printed in the United States of America. 



by Ford McCormack 



March Hare Mission 

A brutally effective picture of the next war . . . and a 
neat, deadly problem in methodology: how do you execute 
an incredibly complex and dangerous mission, without 
arms, without aid — and without the simple ability to recall 
what you're doing for more than two minutes at a time? 

A distant roar sounded hollowly in the rock-walled corridor, and 
after a moment Lieutenant Gavin realized what it was — machine- 
gun fire, its familiar chatter dissipated in the maze between. 

He swore fervently, drew his automatic, and stretched his wiry 
legs to a fast lope. The enemy must have broken through at the other 
stairway, since the one behind him was still being held. Only a low 
rumble from that direction told of the carnage beyond the huge 
emergency doors. The elevator shafts had, of course, been irreversi- 
bly sealed off long before, by steel slabs at every level. 

Bitterly, Gavin regretted having lingered for a few pot shots before 
the doors were closed. Now he faced the prospect of being cut off 
from a much more important objective. And there was only one 
cartridge left in his automatic. 

It had been fairly certain from the first that the enemy would re- 
ject a peaceful surrender of the hospital section. The massacre of 
helpless patients was part of what military propaganda called "severe 
retaliation" — against any and all resistance. 

There had been plenty of resistance in and around Vancouver 
Combs. The top levels had been abandoned for a week because of 
radioactivity, while the mightiest battle of the war raged in the air 
over the disfigured terrain. Armament was about equal, but numbers 



MARCH HARE MISSION 



3 



were with the enemy. In the actual storming of the Combs, each 
successive level had cost the invader heavily. But this last, bottom 
level, with its handful of defenders, would come cheaper. 

Gavin's stride faltered momentarily, as two grey-uniformed sol- 
diers appeared at the far end of the corridor; then he sprinted for the 
nearest cross-corridor twenty yards farther on. As he ducked into it, 
a bullet knocked chips from the wall over his head, and the sound of 
the shot clapped and echoed behind him. 

There was no one in the cross-corridor — but he had to get out of it 
before the men who had seen him could reach it. The noise of battle 
— or slaughter — was louder now, and seemed to come from all direc- 
tions. Behind some of the doors he passed, there was the babble of 
frightened voices. 

At the next main corridor he paused for a quick glance both ways. 
It too was empty. He turned left and raced along, his hopes rising 
with every step. The destination was not far now. At the third cross- 
corridor, he turned right. Seconds later, he stood panting at the last 
turn, within sight of his goal — a door not fifty feet from the inter- 
section. But in between, walking away from Gavin, was a soldier. 

Perhaps a hundred yards farther down the corridor a group of 
five more soldiers was approaching. As yet, the group presented a 
minor hazard — in fact, it would fit in very well with Gavin's plan. 
But if he waited until the solitary soldier reached the others, they 
would all be too close. 

He had no doubts about his ability to kill the soldier with his one 
remaining shot. And under the circumstances, he felt not the slight- 
est compunction about shooting him in the back. But in case he 
couldn't reach the door — or it just happened to be locked — he would 
need that last bullet for another purpose. 

Gavin hefted the automatic in his hand, and his dark, rather 
sharp face tightened with decision. On soundless feet, he darted out 
into the corridor, conscious of his conspicuous lieutenant's uniform. 
Still, with the soldier between himself and the group, there was a 
chance they might not see him too soon. 

They did. The soldier was ten yards beyond the door and Gavin 
was passing it when a shout rang along the corridor. Both Gavin and 
the soldier stopped instantly — but the soldier had to turn around. 



4 



WORLDS BEYOND 



As he did so, Gavin's last bullet caught him high in the stomach and 
he dropped like an empty sack. 

Gavin whirled and reached the door, marked: pharmacy, in one 
bound. It was not locked. As he snatched it open, a bullet splint- 
ered through one of the panels, and another whipped the air close 
behind him. Inside, he pulled the door shut and turned the lock. 

He was in a small medical storeroom with shelves and bottles from 
floor to ceiling. It adjoined a larger room by an archway, and the 
other room also had a door to the hall. But that door should be 
locked, and there was no time to make sure. 

Gavin jerked a fold of papers from his breast pocket, loosened the 
separate sheets and made a wad, tossing it on the floor. He struck a 
match with fairly steady hands and, stooping, lighted the wad at 
several points. Shouts reverberated in the corridor outside, and the 
doorknob rattled loudly. 

He stood up and turned to the shelves, running his eye along one 
of them to a bottle with a bright red label. Printed on it prominently 
was the word: poison. Gavin took the bottle quickly, pulled the 
stopper, and raised it to his mouth. 

He was briefly aware of a sour taste, which was obliterated by a 
strangling sensation of liquid fire. It took intense muscular effort to 
force several swallows past his burning throat. 

Dizzily, he dropped the half-empty bottle on the floor, with a 
crash that seemed to shake the room. . . . No, the crash had been 
something hitting the door — the lock was bent out of shape. . . . 
The papers on the floor had burned to as many layers of black ash; 
Gavin lurched forward and stamped on them heavily, then dropped 
to his hands and knees as the floor began to rise in a mad spiral. . . . 

His next impression, which he accepted matter-of-factly, was of 
having been stuffed into a coffin that was too small. But he had not 
yet been buried, for there was light. ... 

Gavin opened his eyes and saw the plain ceiling and walls of a 
small hospital room. It was no coffin that compressed his arms and 
torso, but a tightly wrapped straitjacket. A lieutenant with the en- 
emy insignia of Intelligence on his sleek grey uniform stood by the 
cot. Behind him was a white-smocked attendant. 



MARCH HARE MISSION 



5 



The stone-faced lieutenant spoke in over-articulated but passable 
English: "You are to come with us." 

Gavin nodded wearily. His head ached, his throat was raw, and 
the snug jacket was doing nothing to alleviate the nausea he felt. 
He struggled awkwardly to a sitting position. 

Walking along the corridor between the two men, Gavin noticed 
small variations of construction which indicated that these combs 
had been built, rather than captured, by the enemy. But as yet there 
was nothing to show their probable location. 

He was led through double, sound-proofed doors into a large room 
suggesting a surgery at first glance. But there were noticeable differ- 
ences: the operating table had too many clamps and adjustments; 
the glass case near it held an unorthodox array of instruments; there 
was other apparatus difficult to connect with the art of healing, some 
of which Gavin recognized from previous descriptions. This cham- 
ber was what the enemy euphemistically referred to as a "question 
room." 

Gavin doubted that they would use torture on him — yet. It was 
effective enough for certain purposes, such as breaking up an under- 
ground movement by forcing the betrayal of one's fellow conspirators. 
But it was not so useful in extracting scientific information, where it 
might take weeks of experimentation to prove the data false. And in 
the case of military information, a major disaster could result from 
any great reliance on reports so obtained. 

The most innocuous piece of equipment in evidence was a lie- 
detector setup — a chair surrounded by half a dozen physiological 
recording instruments attachable to the subject. Gavin was not sur- 
prised at being escorted to it. The attendant, an owlish little man who 
looked withered beyond his years, began removing the straitjacket. 

There was a surge of relief as the canvas loosened about Gavin's 
midsection. The jacket showed evidence of much use. If they put it 
back on him, as was probable, they would not be likely to notice 
that the fastenings failed to pull up so far as they had when he was 
unconscious. Gavin knew a certain technique for enlarging the torso 
imperceptibly. 

The tall lieutenant stood off watchfully, holding his automatic by 
its barrel, while the attendant strapped Gavin securely to the chair. 



6 



WORLDS BEYOND 



They were applying the various attachments of the he-detector 
when the door opened and a squat, middle-aged officer entered. His 
tightly fitting uniform emphasized his hoglike physique, and his plati- 
num hair and pale blue eyes contrasted icily with the heavy, florid 
cheeks. 

This would be the official inquisitor, no doubt, and it was perhaps 
significant that his rank was that of colonel. He stared with cold 
contempt at Gavin while the wizened attendant made the final ad- 
justments on the lie-detector and indicated that it was functioning. 
Then the colonel spoke in a metallic bass, his accent somewhat 
thicker than the lieutenant's had been: 

"So this is the coward who lacked the nerve to put a bullet through 
his brain. I must compliment you on your choice of poison, how- 
ever — we located a stomach-pump barely in time to save your life." 

The fools, thought Gavin. There had been a stomach-pump across 
the hall, in the laboratory storeroom. It shouldn't have taken them 
two minutes to find it. And it was known that the enemy awarded 
a substantial bonus for officers and key men captured alive. 

"Not that we have much use for you," the colonel went on casual- 
ly. "We have already found out a great deal about the new super- 
weapon." 

Gavin saw the colonel's gaze flicker past him toward the recorders, 
which were all strategically located in back of the chair. It had been 
a fairly clever remark — to be made by someone who was not even 
sure a super-weapon existed. A surprise reaction would be quite in- 
dicative. Gavin was reasonably sure he had not shown one: his long 
and rigorous schooling with every type of lie-detector had more than 
prepared him for such simple tests. 

If the colonel was annoyed by the lack of response, he did not show 
it. He spoke again, in the same condescending tone — but in his own 
language: 

"How long have you been a spy?" 

The designation was pure bluster, of course, based on the arrogant 
and familiar view that opposition agents deserved no more honorable 
title. But it had been a direct question, and Gavin did not wish to an- 
tagonize the man by ignoring it completely. Those petulant hps and 
narrowed eyes bespoke a character that might easily be prompted to 



MARCH HARE MISSION 



7 



an offhand but crippling act of cruelty. Gavin could not afford to have 
that happen. Nor did he wish to reveal his considerable fluency with 
the language of the enemy. He replied hesitantly, in English: 

"How long — I didn't catch the question." The words rasped pain- 
fully in his sore throat. 

The colonel sneered, reverting to the same language: "Never mind. 
Your lack of experience — and your ignorance — is very evident. Did 
you imagine, for instance, that burning those papers and stamping on 
them would put the information out of our reach? Even your own so- 
called experts could have recovered some of it; we were able to restore 
it completely. Every word! Every equation! What do you think of 
that?" 

Privately, Gavin doubted it. But they had probably gotten enough 
to connect him with Dr. Middleton, as they were intended to. As for 
the rest of the data, it concerned a very interesting if unproductive line 
of research which had nothing to do with Dr. Middleton or any known 
weapon. But even if they got it all, they would need considerable time 
to make sure it was useless. 

The colonel looked up at the tall lieutenant and nodded significant- 
ly toward the door. The solemn lieutenant wheeled stiffly and marched 
out. Hands on hips, the colonel stood facing Gavin for a moment, 
then spoke quietly: 

"You know, of course, that we can break down your conditioning 
with nepenthal in a very short time." 

Gavin waited, guessing what was coming. He knew the facts, all 
right. Full security-conditioning took months of intensive treatment 
to build up. It included a violent antipathy toward all hypnotic drugs 
or so-called truth serums. Even a moderate dosage of any of them 
would cause convulsions and unconsciousness, from which the subject 
would not recover to any useful extent while the effects lasted. But the 
peculiar action of nepenthal, a non-hypnotic drug which the enemy had 
synthesized within the last year, would break down that conditioning 
in a few weeks at most. 

The colonel's tone grew deadly: "I wonder if you know how much 
difference it can make to you, whether you freely answer a few ques- 
tions now, or wait until we drag it out of you." 



8 



WORLDS BEYOND 



He studied Gavin's face for a moment, then went on: "If you tell 
us now, the truth of your answers will of course be tested later. If 
you have not lied, you will be well treated. You can believe this, since 
it is obvious that such a policy works to our advantage. Otherwise — 
if you refuse to answer, or lie to me — well, you will die, eventually. 
But you will start dying long before that. What do you say?" 

Gavin wondered how many times the same routine had been per- 
formed in this same room — and how many steadfast, heroic rejections 
had followed. As for himself, he had little choice. He could not an- 
swer those "few questions" if he wanted to — and it would be danger- 
ous to leave any room for argument. He spoke flatly: "I say no." 

The colonel's beefy hand delivered a jolting slap to Gavin's face. 

Fast as the motion had been, Gavin had seen it coming. He could 
have jerked his head sideways at the last instant and greatly reduced 
the force of the blow, but a split-second decision had restrained him. 
It would be unwise to reveal his unusual, hair-trigger coordination to 
this man. Gavin's only hope was to keep that weapon secret as long 
as possible. Besides, the sadistic satisfaction of the act might allay the 
other's vindictiveness. 

When the bells stopped ringing in Gavin's head and his vision 
cleared, he became aware that the colonel was chuckling. 

"So! He is not a mechanical man, after all. He is made of flesh 
which quivers and blood whose pressure can be made to jump!" 

He turned to the attendant, who wore a cadaverous grin of appreci- 
ation. "Give him a test dose of solanacin. He probably has the full 
conditioning, but we must make sure." 

The door swung wide, and the tall lieutenant appeared, pushing 
before him a shambling figure wearing a straitjacket. The prisoner's 
head drooped low, showing only a dirty bandage and tousled grey hair. 
Gavin knew who it must be, even before the lieutenant shoved the 
head back with the butt of his hand, revealing a square, lined face and 
sunken eyes that stared as if with vague puzzlement. 

Gavin deliberately stimulated in himself a slight momentary tension. 
The role he was playing called for considerable surprise at this junc- 
ture, and the colonel was watching him closely. It was just as well to 
jog the recorders a little. 

He had studied too many photographs of the well-known physicist 



MARCH HARE MISSION 



9 



standing there not to recognize him despite his altered appearance. It 
was Dr. Middleton — the man Gavin must kill, if the slightest oppor- 
tunity presented itself. 

Dr. Middleton had been captured two weeks ago at Juneau Combs, 
which had fallen so unexpectedly that the usual precaution of remov- 
ing key men from danger points could not be taken. The scientist had 
good reason to be at Juneau, which had been the nearest position to 
the enemy at the time. He had been supervising installations for the 
only really revolutionary weapon to be developed since the war began. 

Gavin had only the vaguest idea of its technical nature: it seemed to 
be a form of focusable radiation, and in the most basic sense, it was 
not even destructive. Quite the contrary. It stabilized things. Ex- 
posure to it somehow strengthened the electrical bonds between the 
constituent elements of any compound. In the laboratory, Gavin had 
personally seen trinitro-tenuin, that most sensitive of explosives, 
pounded harmlessly with a hammer under the inhibitory rays. But the 
wielder of the hammer had taken care not to expose himself for long. 
The stoppage of chemical change extended to life-processes. 

A great and useful future was foreseen for the radiation. At low 
power output it would preserve food indefinitely, without refrigeration. 
At high power, it would extinguish fires from a considerable distance 
by making combustion impossible. 

Just now, the prime purpose was to see how efficaciously a ring 
of large projectors could clear the air of jet-planes. Installations were 
being rushed to completion at Seattle, Portland and Spokane and 
should be in operation within a week. The new weapon had no effect 
on atomic bombs, of course — but it could do a wholesale job of crip- 
pling the planes that carried them. It was confidently expected to end 
the war — providing the enemy failed to duplicate it within the next 
few months. If they did, then the war would continue as of old on 
land and sea, and the advantage would inevitably revert to the side 
with the preponderance of manpower. 

The enemy would not have been likely to arrive at the discovery 
soon enough by research alone. But now, the fiasco at Juneau had 
delivered into their hands a man who had been instrumental in the 
development of the new weapon from the laboratory stage. They got 



10 



WORLDS BEYOND 



no critical plans or equipment — those had been destroyed. But the in- 
formation in Dr. Middleton's mind, once extracted, would be more 
than they needed. The last radio report from Juneau Combs said that 
Dr. Middleton had attempted suicide, but had either been restrained 
or bungled the job. The head-bandage and straitjacket he now wore 
seemed to bear out that report. Certainly, no one could have realized 
more keenly the disastrous implications of his capture than the doctor 
himself. 

At home, officialdom had reacted with freshets of counter-accusa- 
tions, some of which were true. Those who had ordered the installa- 
tions at Juneau had certainly not allowed a sufficient margin of time — 
events proved that. On the other hand, if the fortunes of war had per- 
mitted only a few days more of respite, two cities and an estimated 
hundred thousand casualties might have been spared. 

Amid the hubbub, the March Hare Project — so named for its utter 
foolhardiness — had been quietly born. The one-man mission had been 
conceived with Lieutenant Gavin's special talents in mind, and the 
Chief of Intelligence had personally and reluctantly outlined it to him. 
It was the Chief who had arranged the lab demonstration of the new 
weapon, so that Gavin could judge for himself what was at stake — 
though he was shown nothing that the enemy would not learn the first 
time it was used. 

Gavin had not jumped at the chance — he was far from being a 
chauvinist — yet the very fact that no orders had been given in- 
fluenced him strongly. If this war was about anything at all, it was 
about differences of policy at all levels. Those differences were worth 
preserving, even at the wildest of risks. And the war would have 
been lost long since if his side had been unable to muster its share 
of men who were willing to play for keeps. So Gavin had become the 
March Hare. 

He was now as close to his objective as careful scheming could 
bring him. From now on, only luck — and the lightning synapses 
which had uniquely qualified him for this desperate job — could help. 

"I see you know the good doctor." The colonel smirked at Gavin, 
and added slyly: "And he has probably recognized you several times 
already." 



MARCH HARE MISSION 



11 



The wizened attendant cackled, and even the tall lieutenant per- 
mitted himself a twisted smile. 

Gavin found the joke less than amusing, for the simple reason that 
it might have been literally true — except for the fact that Gavin had 
never before met Dr. Middleton. The latter was plainly under the 
influence of nepenthal. There were definite signs of the drug's main 
symptom: an odd disfunction of the memory. 

While it had relatively little immediate effect on mental alertness, 
the drug nullified one's ability to store recollections of current hap- 
penings, usually on an almost instantaneous basis. However, the pre- 
symptomatic memory was unaffected. Thus, under its influence, the 
subject was unaware of any lapse of time between the onset of the 
drug's full effect and the present moment. And therefore it was quite 
possible to recognize the same person several times within a brief 
period. One had only to look away to forget completely. 

Protracted use of the drug Would eventually cause permanent 
damage to the brain. Yet the enemy used it indiscriminately on 
prisoners whether they had security-conditioning or not. Since the 
drug made them incapable of sustained or coherent action, it reduced 
the problem of guarding them to a minimum. 

Gavin had seen some of the mindless wrecks the enemy had ex- 
changed for human beings. Although the drug's formula was now 
known to both sides, there did not seem to be any recourse against 
this crime of war that would not be equally inhumane. So the shame- 
ful traffic continued. 

The owlish attendant approached with a hypodermic syringe, 
jabbed it casually into Gavin's arm just above the rubber armlet of 
the sphygmomanometer, and pressed the plunger. The mere injection 
caused a slight hypertension which must have been plainly observable 
on the recorders. And in a few moments, the solanacin was kicking 
up a physiological disturbance out of all proportion to the minute 
dosage, and in contradistinction to its narcotic properties. 

In spite of himself, Gavin fidgeted with acute discomfort. His 
breathing was becoming asthmatically difficult, and the feeling of 
nausea was returning with a vengeance. He was almost glad when 
the colonel spoke to the attendant with an air of boredom: 

"There's no doubt about it. You can start the nepenthal now — 



12 



WORLDS BEYOND 



and give him plenty." He turned to the tall lieutenant. "You might as 
well wait and take them both with you. Have a guard stay with the 
little spy until he is completely under the influence." 

He smiled sardonically at Gavin. "Farewell, amateur! When I 
see you in a few weeks, you will have cause to regret your stubborn- 
ness. In the meantime — just a few days from now, in fact — Dr. 
Middleton will have told us all you know and more. That is a 
pleasant little thought for you to turn over and over at your absent- 
minded leisure." 

Obviously pleased with himself, the colonel sauntered out. 

The nepenthal brought quick relief from the worst of the reactions 
occasioned by the narcotic, to which it was a partial antidote. But it 
also brought a strong sense of urgency. 

From previous experience, Gavin knew that the effect would reach 
maximum in fifteen minutes at most. At any given moment during 
the next six to eight hours, his last recollections would be of the pres- 
ent interval. In that time he must formulate and fix in his mind the 
cues which would guide his subsequent behavior. 

During his ten days at Vancouver Combs, while awaiting its inevi- 
table downfall, Gavin had experimented with nepenthal several 
times, and had become painfully aware of his limitations. The direc- 
tives had to be simple, or even his phenomenal associative powers 
were unable to reconstruct the pattern and retain it long enough to 
accomplish the most elementary purpose. If the purpose involved 
several steps, it was advisable to anticipate some characteristic of 
each one and select cues accordingly. 

For this occasion, he had long since decided what the first and 
predominant directive must be, on which the separate cues would 
depend, in those isolated moments which lay ahead. . . . 

Look around! Gavin's gaze swung quickly about the rough and 
pitted rock walls of his cell, whose single furnishing was the cot on 
which he was sitting. He was alone: the guard had left. 

Simultaneously, the slight motion of his body made him aware of 
the confining straitjacket. That awareness was the cue which 
launched a cyclical writhing of his entire torso. He felt his outer arm 
slip slightly in its canvas sheath. This was a critical point, at which un- 



MARCH HARE MISSION 



13 



trained individuals usually made the mistake of trying to loosen the 
inner arm as well; instead, Gavin preserved the small amount of slack 
between them with care, and set about the strenuous process of mak- 
ing more. . . . 

Look around! But he could not. His head and shoulders were en- 
gulfed in suffocating folds of rough cloth. He was not immediately 
aware of the position of his arms : they were upraised and numb, and 
as a result, his efforts to disentangle them were rather feeble. . . . 

Look around! As Gavin did so, he was conscious of an aching 
weariness in the muscles of his arms and shoulders. The straitjacket 
lay on the floor at his feet. He was free to attempt the plan whose 
initial steps he had visualized while sitting here before the drug had 
taken full effect — seemingly, seconds ago. 

He had been well aware of the plan's inflexibility. Its failure could 
easily have the result of immobilizing him. But that was a risk he had 
already accepted, and he wasted no irreplaceable moments considering 
it now. 

Instead, orientation congealed into stimulus; he twisted from his 
sitting position, clutched the cot pad by the near edge and slung it 
with some precision to the floor and against one wall. That wall con- 
tained the cell's only opening other than its metal-sheathed door — a 
heavy-grilled ventilator near the ceiling. 

With a continuous motion, Gavin spun back to the bare cot and 
grasped it by the sides of its rusted steel frame. It was not anchored 
in any way — that had been the first thing he had checked on entering 
the room. The cell itself was too large — or too small — to have been 
intended as such. This part of the Combs had probably been con- 
verted from a hospital or residential section, and the usual precautions 
were no longer considered necessary since the enemy had adopted the 
practice of using the new drug to render its prisoners helpless. 

But he made no attempt to lift the cot just then. There had been a 
warning protest from his tired muscles — he would be too slow. First 
he must rest. . . . 

Look around! In the act of turning his head, Gavin stopped, then 



14 



WORLDS BEYOND 



returned his attention to the cot over which he was bending, as the 
plan took priority in his mind. With a heave, he swung the cot over 
his head, inverting it, stepped forward and placed its end against the 
wall under the ventilator grill. 

Straining on tiptoe, he raised the cot so that one of its tubular steel 
legs passed between the closely meshed bars of the slightly protruding 
grill. A final thrust with his fingertips caused the crossbar of the cot's 
end-section to catch on the rough surface of the wall. It held — the cot 
hung straight out from the wall, its full length providing leverage in 
probable excess of its strength. But the legs were well braced, and 
there were four of them. . . . 

The cot pad on the floor was not altogether successful in mitigating 
the noise of the crash. Gavin was unable to prevent the cot from 
scraping the wall on the way down, and the grill, joined to a foot-long 
section of heavy-gauge duct that had pulled out with it, bounced on 
the cot-springs with a disconcerting clamor. The incident would have 
been excellent cause for worry, if Gavin had not promptly forgotten 
it. . . . 

Look around! The up-ended cot under him swayed dangerously, 
and Gavin oriented himself barely in time to hook his hand in the ven- 
tilator hole for stability. But the glance had informed him that there 
was no one else in the cell. 

The weak spot of the ventilator had been where it had joined the 
main duct, and the torn bolt-holes made a hazard in squeezing his 
body through the narrow opening. There was also a baffle partly 
blocking the way, which he was able to bend sufficiently. 

There was no doubt about which way to turn. Dr. Middleton's cell 
lay somewhere to the left. The lieutenant had taken him on down the 
corridor after leaving Gavin and the guard. The doctor's cell was 
most likely on the same side — there were only two doors on the other 
— but whether it was one or a dozen cells away, there had been no 
way of telling. Not that it mattered much. There was no practicable 
way of counting them, either. . . . 

Gavin quite literally found himself in the near-blackness of a tube so 
flat in its cross-section that he could not raise his belly from the dust- 



MARCH HARE MISSION 



15 



caked surface far enough to crawl normally. There was only room to 
squirm, which he promptly did. The cold air blowing around his 
body from behind carried the disturbed dust to his face in choking 
eddies as he inched forward. 

It had been easy to deduce where he was, in a general way. But that 
in itself told him virtually nothing regarding the all-important question: 
Had he accomplished his mission? Fortunately, there was an in- 
direct answer to that. There was no pain in his right earlobe. 

A week ago, a small capsule had been inserted under the skin on 
the inner side of that lobe. The capsule could be ruptured by the 
firm pressure of a thumbnail, releasing an irritant into the tissues 
which would keep them inflamed for days. Only when and if he felt 
this soreness would Gavin be free to indulge in the frail hope of his 
own escape. . . . 

He was looking down through a ventilator at a familiar bandaged 
head and mass of grey hair. The head was drooping so that the face 
was not visible. How many other cells Gavin had peered into — how 
long he had waited at this one for more certain identification to be- 
come possible — he would never know. But as he watched now, the 
man beneath heaved a sigh and the blunt, seamed features of Dr. 
Middleton came briefly but unmistakably into view. 

Instantly, Gavin pressed his shoulder against the baffle which 
partly blocked the opening and bent it clear. Simultaneously, he 
plucked a button off the fly of his pants. They and his shirt were the 
only parts of his uniform that had been left on him. The buttons 
were of tough steel and had various potentialities in an emergency. 
He inserted the thin edge of this one into the slot of the nearest bolt 
securing the ventilator grill, and twisted with all the strength of fin- 
gers that could bend a twenty-penny nail held in one hand. . . . 

The button itself provided an adequate clue as to what he was do- 
ing, and by convention he took the bolts in clockwise order around 
the grill. In each case, he applied the maximum force at the first ap- 
proach. If the bolt would not turn, due to corrosion, or its slot dis- 
integrated under the strain for the same reason, he went quickly to 
the next one. ... 



1<5 



WORLDS BEYOND 



Two empty holes in succession — one would not have been con- 
clusive — told him at a glance that he had done all he could to weaken 
the attachment. With one writhing twist of his torso he reversed 
position and jabbed both feet at the grill. It came free gratingly and 
disappeared from view. Its unrelieved clatter was still sounding from 
the floor below, as Gavin followed through with his legs and hips. At 
that point, his shirt caught on a ragged edge of metal, tore wide open, 
and caught again. . . . 

In spite of the fact that his own body shut off most of the light, 
Gavin's mind leaped to the simplest explanation of his position. He 
was halfway into the air duct, through the only opening his memory 
had registered: the ventilator in his own cell. Then, as he started to 
work himself farther in, he became aware of the metal button he was 
holding in his fingers. After a slight hesitation, he projected himself 
outward with a strong thrust of his arms 

Look around! As he picked himself up off the floor, Gavin's 
swinging gaze paused with a slight shock of recognition on the sitting 
figure of Dr. Middleton, then went on with sudden purpose. He 
could kill the doctor with his bare hands, quite easily — but not 
quickly enough, under the circumstances, to be sure of carrying 
through. 

His eyes fell on the grill assembly, lying in the middle of the floor. 
At the same instant, there was the metallic rasp of a key being in- 
serted in the lock of the cell door. 

As he automatically lunged toward the grill, Gavin's racing mind 
weighed the situation. 

There was a chance that he could kill Dr. Middleton before being 
apprehended — and complete his mission. His normal, deep-seated 
reluctance to kill a helpless person — one who was nominally a friend 
— would be no deterrent whatever. Dr. Middleton's continued ex- 
istence was a threat to the lives of millions and, in all probability, to 
the freedom of mankind for generations. In this vital sense, the good 
doctor was an arch-enemy. 

But the grill was bulky, and there was no assurance that he might 
not be defeated by the mental fog which was due to descend at any 



MARCH HARE MISSION 



17 



instant. Also, the guards all wore side-arms and were trained, he knew, 
to use them fast. Whether he finished off the doctor or not, the out- 
come for himself would be certain death, within seconds at most. 
Yet he would not be here if fear of death had been a guiding factor. 

The key was still turning noisily in the lock as Gavin paused, 
bending over the grill with his fingers clutching its crossbars. His 
thoughts had been scarcely more than unresolved flashes of insight. 
In the same over-all manner, he considered the alternative. 

It was simple enough in its conception — as it had to be. Kill the 
guard and escape, taking the doctor along. In its execution, the plan's 
basic difficulties would be rendered fantastic by Gavin's condition. 
Yet there was the prospect of a certain amount of latitude beyond 
that first big step. With the guard out of the way, Dr. Middleton 
could possibly be disposed of any time the going got too tough. 

Acting on the gravest decision of his career, Gavin released his 
hold on the grill and flung himself toward the corner of the room 
where the door was. The latch clicked and the door swung wide as he 
flattened himself against the wall behind it. 

And forgot why he was there. . . . 

A moment later he had partially reconstructed the situation. The 
door behind which he stood was located differently than in his own 
cell: this could be Dr. Middleton's. The heavy footsteps were un- 
doubtedly those of a guard, who was muttering something in his own 
language about noise and twenty devils. 

Without hesitation Gavin moved out from behind the door. There 
was simply no time to stalk the guard, and he could only hope for the 
advantage of surprise. 

Luck was momentarily with him. The guard, a heavy-set six- 
footer, was turned partly away, looking up at the uncovered ventila- 
tor hole. But he must have caught a glimpse of Gavin's motion, for 
he whirled around, raising an automatic pistol. As he did so, Gavin 
lashed out with a well-gauged kick, connecting solidly with the 
guard's wrist, and the gun continued on up, spinning slowly. Before 
it hit the floor, Gavin had launched his body straight at the larger 
man, lowering his head at the last instant and butting it rather pain- 
fully but with brutal effect into the other's face. At the same time, 



18 



WORLDS BEYOND 



his crossed hands gripped the collar of the guard's uniform just above 
the lapels, and his knee came up sharply to the groin. 

The disabled guard went down heavily, the beginnings of a scream 
cut off by the pressure of Gavin's forearms on his throat. From the 
feel of the initial kick, Gavin judged the guard's wrist was badly 
damaged, if not broken. Since the problem was not only to kill the 
man but to do it quickly and silently, that was so much the better. 
This particular strangle-hold was very hard to break with one 
hand. . . . 

A loud groan from the barely conscious man beneath him brought 
Gavin's senses into focus, and he instantly tightened his grip. . . . 

Look around! He was standing in a cell with a dead guard at his 
feet and with Dr. Middleton staring blankly at him from the cot. The 
door was open. 

Gavin sprang quickly to close it, first removing the cluster of keys 
that hung from its lock, then returned to the body. Dropping to his 
knees, he began working at the buttons of the oversized uniform. . . . 

It was not such a bad fit as might be expected, judging by the 
beefy, underwear-clad corpse on the floor. Gavin's shoulders were 
deceptively broad; the gunbelt gathered in the fullness at the waist 
acceptably; the roomy pants, worn over his own, pulled up high 
under the coat and turned under at the cuffs, merely made him look 
stouter. And the cap was actually a bit snug. Swiftly, he caught up 
the gun from the floor, slipped it into the holster at his side, and con- 
tinued across the room toward Dr. Middleton. ... 

He was escorting Dr. Middleton by the arm along a corridor other- 
wise empty. Walking, he had long since discovered, was a sufficiently 
automatic process that its own momentum made it fairly continuous. 
This was not altogether advantageous. Gavin stopped them just in 
time to prevent their barging across the intersection of a larger corri- 
dor. 

But a discreet glance showed that it, too, was empty. And it 
showed something else. A hundred feet to the right was the open 
door of a brightly lighted room, from which could be heard the mum- 
ble of men's voices. An equal distance farther on, a ten-foot iron 



MARCH HARE MISSION 



19 



fence and gate spanned the corridor, marking an entrance to the 
prison. Beyond that, in the next cross-corridor, the recessed edge of 
an elevator door could be seen. Immediately, he was able to orient 
their position to the mental map of this part of the Combs that he 
had carefully formulated on his way here — seemingly minutes ago. 
, The trouble with a map was that it could not tell you how to proceed 
unless you knew where you were. Here, the landmarks showed they 
were still on the wrong side of the fence. 

It was unguarded — a degree of laxity compatible only with the en- , 
emy's methods of imprisonment. The gate itself, he recalled, had an 
old-style lock which conveniently narrowed down his choice to the 
two largest of the keys dangling from his belt. And Gavin was sure 
he could open it much less noisily than the guard who had originally 
admitted them — providing they could reach it undetected. 

There was no choice but to walk past that open door and hope in- 
tensely to be unnoticed. To search for other egress from the section 
would even more decidedly invite disaster. Gripping Dr. Middle- 
ton's arm more firmly, he urged him to a fairly rapid walk. . . . 

Approaching the doorway, Gavin became aware of a number of 
things simultaneously: the doorway itself, Dr. Middleton, the gate 
ahead, the jingling keys at his waist and the weight of an automatic 
at his side. The last called his attention to his ill-fitting clothes, which 
he identified wonderingly as the uniform of an enemy guard. 

He quickly grasped the keys with his free hand to silence them, 
but the doctor's shuffling feet were making more noise on the stone 
floor than the murmur of voices in the room could be expected to 
drown out. Gavin held his breath as they came abreast of the door- 
way. If they were seen at all, they were lost. It would do no good to 
avert his head — no matter who they mistook him for, the circum- 
stances would undoubtedly seem peculiar enough to investigate. He 
glanced in. 

A group of men sat at a table not fifteen feet from the doorway 
playing cards. One of them was almost directly facing the doorway, 
with nothing in his line of sight. He was in the act of slapping a card 
triumphantly down on the table, after which he turned to grin at the 
man at his left. Then Gavin and the doctor were past the seemingly 



20 



WORLDS BEYOND 



wide doorway, safe for the moment. Gavin felt briefly grateful for 
the comparatively dim lighting of the corridor, and for the winning 
guard's luck. . . . 

Look around! He and Dr. Middleton were standing before a row 
of elevators, and there was no one else in sight. As Gavin assessed 
the important factors of the situation, including his weapon and dis- 
guise, he felt a rising excitement, combined with a touch of awe at the 
incredible luck which must have brought him this far. 

Yet there was still a tremendous — even hopeless — distance to go. 
The improbable achievement of reaching topside would leave the 
matter of at least a few thousand miles between them and safety. If 
— but the concern of the moment was that they were still on the same 
level as the prison where they had been confined. Painted in the re- 
cess at each end of the row of five doors was the same symbol he had 
noticed in coming down, a letter corresponding to the English "R". 
The enemy, he knew, followed the world-wide convention of alpha- 
betical sequence for their underground levels, starting from the top so 
that levels could be added without confusion when the Combs ex- 
panded downward. 

The indicator above one of the doors showed that an elevator was 
rising from the bottom of the shaft, only three levels below. Gavin 
was standing within reach of the signal buttons, which probably 
meant that he had already pushed one. Nevertheless, he pressed the 
upper one firmly, mentally approving the earlier choice implied by 
their presence here. Stairwells were usually widely separated from 
elevator shafts, for military reasons, and even if he had known where 
the nearest one was, the climb would be too time-consuming and 
strenuous, especially for the debilitated doctor. And it would greatly 
increase the chances of disastrous encounter. This way, with luck, 
there might be only the elevator operator to deal with. Gavin rested 
his free hand on his hip, in contact with the butt of the automatic, 
and hoped it would stay there as an instantaneous reminder. . . . 

As the elevator door before him began to slide open, he identified 
the cold metal touching his hand, and oriented himself sufficiently to 
restrain an impulse to draw the weapon. There were two men in the 



MARCH HARE MISSION 



21 



elevator: the operator, who was a soldier of the rank corresponding 
to corporal, and an officer. As the latter stepped from the car, 
Gavin saw that he was a captain of ordnance. The officer glanced at 
them with no more than mild curiosity and turned down the Corridor. 
As quickly as possible, Gavin led the stumbling doctor into the ele- 
vator, and was aware of the doors gliding shut behind them. . . . 

He was in an elevator with Dr. Middleton and the operator, a 
soldier, who was looking at him curiously. The car's motion was 
changing, yet because it was completely enclosed, there were no 
visual clues. Gavin's first impression was of coming to a stop in a 
downward direction. Then as the pressure of his shoe-soles eased off 
and the sighing sound of movement in the shaft continued, he real- 
ized the car had been accelerating upward. On the assumption that 
it had started from the prison level, there was a long way to go to the 
top one, and there would be time enough to — 

Gavin drew his pistol and waved the astonished operator away 
from the controls. As the soldier released the lever and stepped aside 
with hands upraised, the car slowed sharply in its ascent. Quickly, 
Gavin grasped the lever, swung it hard over and half-sat on it, with his 
back against the panel. Gesturing toward Dr. Middleton, he curbed 
a growing sense of urgency well enough to speak distinctly to the 
soldier in his own language: 

"The jacket — take it off him!" 

Fortunately, the man turned submissively, almost without hesita- 
tion, and began to unfasten the doctor's straps. At that moment, a 
buzzer sounded within the car, in short, angry bursts. Someone had 
evidently been passed up, and didn't like it. . . . 

There was an almost continual buzzing in the moving elevator, ac- 
companied by a dull roaring from without which was increasing in 
volume. An enemy soldier stood with his back turned toward Gavin, 
who tensed, then relaxed as the situation explained itself in part. 
The soldier was in the act of unwrapping the straitjacket from Dr. 
Middleton. 

The next instant, he whirled and lashed out with the jacket. It 
caught Gavin in the head and whipped his face, blinding him mo- 



22 



WORLDS BEYOND 



mentarily; then he was grappling with the soldier, grimly aware of the 
hampering effect of the studded panel against which his back was 
pressed. 

The pistol was slowly being twisted from his grasp — not expertly, 
but irresistibly, because of superior leverage. Gavin took a chance 
and let go of the gun, which the soldier was holding by its barrel. 
It was then that the latter revealed his amateur status. He attempted 
to jump back and shift the gun to his other hand to reverse it. 

Gavin jumped with him, knocked the man's gun arm upward and 
followed through with a swift hammerlock. Seconds later, he relieved 
the soldier of the excruciating pain of a broken arm by clubbing him 
unconscious with the gun-butt. 

Gavin had identified the roaring sound. The elevator was stopped 
near one of the factory levels. He reached for the control lever. . . . 

The insistent buzzing made it difficult to tell, but the car seemed 
to be moving very slowly, though the lever was all the way over, in 
the "up" position. It could mean they were approaching the top of 
the shaft. And this car would not be the only one doing that. Others 
would be coming to investigate — if they were not there already. Yet 
the cars which had been near the top level would have had to go 
dov/n quite a way to place the source of trouble. And if those cars 
were also operated by common soldiers, no investigation would be 
undertaken without orders. There was a chance that the top level 
would still be clear. 

The elevator stopped. As Gavin released the lever, the car settled 
slowly, evidently seeking alignment with the top level. When it 
stopped, both doors would open automatically. 

Hastily, Gavin grasped the unconscious soldier by his collar and 
pulled him closer, then ripped open the man's coat and tugged it off 
him. It would be useful to Dr. Middleton, when and if there were 
time to put it on him. 

With a heave, he propped the soldier in a sitting position under the 
control lever. Catching up the straitjacket from the floor, he passed it 
around the man's chest under his arms and tied the ends to the 
handle of the control lever, just as the elevator stopped again and the 
doors slid open. 



MARCH HARE MISSION 



23 



Gavin grabbed Dr. Middleton's arm with one hand, the soldier's 
coat with the other, and hauled them both from the car. There was 
no time for caution — but a quick glance showed no one close by. 
Reaching into the elevator he clutched the soldier by his shirt-sleeve 
and toppled him over. At once, the doors started to shut, and a mo- 
ment later the indicator showed the car on its way — to the bot- 
tom. . . . 

Look around! The letter painted in the recess corresponded to the 
top level of the Combs, and stirred in Gavin a brief feeling of as- 
tonishment. It also posed a problem, being the only means yet ap- 
parent for distinguishing this level from any other. 

Whether or not they had come up on one of these elevators, as was 
probable, it was obviously not safe to remain here. A quick glance at 
the indicators above the doors showed that two of the cars were only 
a few levels below and rising steadily. 

And there were several people visible along the corridor, both 
civilians and soldiers. The former, from what Gavin knew of the 
enemy's martial caste system, would offer little hazard. In fact, the 
uniform he wore might very well get them past all save officers — 
until the alarm was sounded. 

Making an automatic connection in his mind between the coat in 
his hand and Dr. Middleton's lack of one, he quickly stepped behind 
the doctor and caught his dangling hands in the sleeve-holes. The 
coat went on easily, being somewhat large, and Gavin noted with ap- 
proval that the loss of its metal buttons made it look less military. 

At that moment, Gavin heard the noise, faint with distance, and 
realized that it had existed for several seconds, at least. They were 
only a few steps from the intersection of another corridor. He led 
the doctor hastily around the corner — and kept on walking, past two 
men whose heavy clothing and ruddy faces suggested outdoor work- 
ers, and who glanced at them with weary indifference. 

The sound was louder now, and unmistakable. It was the guttural 
roar of jet-engines, somewhere ahead. . , „ 

Look around! Several matters pressed for Gavin's attention all at 
once. He and Dr. Middleton were at an intersection of two corridors, 



24 



WORLDS BEYOND 



one of which ended twenty feet away at a big door. Over.it was a 
sign which translated — amazingly enough — into: hangar 3. Built 
into the large door was a smaller one, which an armed guard was 
holding open to admit a worker into the corridor. The noise of jet- 
engines rolled loudly from the opening, yet did not quite drown out 
the insistent clangor of a bell — or bells, since it seemed to come 
from all directions. A general alarm, it must be, and there was little 
quesion as to its object. 

Not too abruptly, for the guard had not yet noticed them, Gavin 
drew the automatic from its holster and released the safety. Whatever 
miracle had gotten them this far, no sort of pretense would get them 
any farther. 

Suddenly, a new sound obtruded itself: the sharp reverberations 
of several shots along the corridor. If they had been aimed this way, 
the bullets had not come close enough to be audible above the general 
noise. Without taking his eyes off the guard, Gavin clutched the doc- 
tor's arm more tightly and moved quickly forward. At that moment 
the civilian stopped just inside the door, looking at them doubtfully, 
and the guard noticed them for the first time. 

As Gavin had half-expected, the soldier reached for his gun, ignor- 
ing the one which was pointed at him — and which promptly shot him 
down. The guard had had no real choice. He was responsible for 
this gateway, and under the enemy system, the alternatives confront- 
ing him had been virtual suicide or — worse. 

On the other hand, no such handicap to survival attached to the 
civilian, who had scuttled back through the doorway and disappeared 
before the soldier had hit the floor. Gavin might have winged him, 
but it was doubtful that the man would spread the alarm within the 
hangar — or, in fact, do anything but make himself scarce. Iron dis- 
cipline the enemy had in abundance, but esprit de corps, even among 
its military, was known to be rare. . . . 

The broad hangar-room, dim-lit and cluttered with a variety of 
small and medium-sized war planes, was like most chambers of its 
kind: thick columns supported the arched steel and concrete ceiling, 
which in turn supported a sizable part of the mountain, or of one of 
the hills, under which these Combs had undoubtedly been built. 



MARCH HARE MISSION 



25 



Across the room, fifty yards away, some of the heavy steel doors 
stood open, admitting grey daylight, along with a chill wind and an 
ear-splitting noise. Yet within the hangar itself, the steady ringing 
of a bell was faintly audible. Here and there in the general gloom, 
bright portable lights showed mechanics at work on some of the 
planes. Gavin led Dr. Middleton toward the far doors in as fast a 
walk as possible, and with little regard for concealment. . . . 

The deafening roar was coming from the twin jets of a black night- 
fighter on the runway just outside the hangar. Beyond it was the 
high, camouflaged wall of a revetment, and looming vaguely in the 
dusky background was a rugged, snow-covered landscape. Since the 
month was only October, these Combs must be situated quite far 
north. The deep twilight indicated that the day was either coming or 
going; Gavin hoped it was the latter. 

The night-fighter was not being warmed up for a takeoff, as Gavin 
had supposed. He could now see that two mechanics were apparently 
testing its engines; that could mean there was something serious 
wrong with one, or even both. It could also mean the plane was not 
fully fueled — and in any case, the type did not begin to have the 
necessary range. 

He paused in the partial shadow of one of the great steel doors, 
tensely clutching the arm of Dr. Middleton, who was shivering with 
cold. Directly beyond the night-fighter, but several hundred yards 
farther down the runway was a larger plane of a type familiar to 
Gavin as the "Osprey" fighter-bomber, although the enemy had got- 
ten this version into production only recently. Differences of detail 
were not noticeable in the half-light, and the stubby fuselage and 
offset wings were characteristic. It was powered by an engine of 
radical design, without moving parts, which utilized fuel so efficiently 
as to provide truly global range. Its top speed approached that of 
rocket-planes, whose scope was much more restricted. Just now, it 
seemed hopelessly far away. . . . 

Look around! Halfway across the hangar, two soldiers with drawn 
pistols were running toward them, and Gavin could see the legs of 
several others beneath intervening planes. The first soldier raised his 
gun and fired; the bullet screeched against the door beside them leav- 



26 



WORLDS BEYOND 



ing a bright furrow in the metal, but the sound of the shot was lost 
in the noise from outside. The next instant, Gavin had hustled Dr. 
Middleton out, and with the temporary protection of the door behind 
them, he started for the black fighter. 

The two mechanics, who were lifting a section of housing from 
the near engine, looked up in surprise, then dropped the housing on 
the ground and moved aside as Gavin motioned with his gun. Since 
they were unarmed, he gave them no further thought. Half-dragging 
the stumbling doctor, Gavin ducked under the plane and heaved the 
other man sprawling on the wing. 

Jumping on it himself, he stretched half his length down into the 
cockpit, pulled the throttle over to maximum and released the brakes. 
Immediately, the plane began to move forward. . . . 

As he straightened up, puzzled, a hole appeared in the plastic 
canopy before his eyes, then another not far from it. A glance 
showed soldiers running out of the hangar nearby, the foremost of 
them trying to circle out far enough to get a direct shot at mis side of 
the plane, which was beginning to outdistance them. 

A sudden thrust against his feet nearly toppled him from the wing. 
Instinctively, he stepped clear — then bent and grabbed with one hand 
at the sliding, squirming form of Dr. Middleton, just in time. Shift- 
ing his grip to the man's coat-collar, Gavin lifted him high. With one 
knee under the other's buttocks, he was about to boost the doctor 
headlong into the cockpit, when he caught sight of another plane 
standing on the runway a few hundred yards ahead. It was the en- 
emy equivalent of an "Osprey," and there seemed to be no one near 
it. If he could take that. . . . 

Gavin hesitated the merest instant, then, with grim logic, he swung 
the doctor pickaback, between himself and the pursuing soldiers. 
Reaching precariously into the cockpit, he slacked off on the throttle 
— and waited. . . . 

Look around! Through the viewports of the "Osprey's" small con- 
trol cabin, throbbing bands of eerie light were visible, sweeping 
erratically across a starry sky. The plane was flying smoothly, high 
above a black and silver wasteland. 



MARCH HARE MISSION 



in 



By the dim glow from the instrument panel, Gavin noticed with a 
start the limp form of a man in the seat beside him. The lined face, 
was that of Dr. Middieton, and there was dried blood on his shirt, 
though he seemed to be sleeping normally. Gavin pulled the man's 
coat farther back and tore open his shirt, exposing the blood-caked 
flesh beneath. Somewhere along the line, the doctor had taken a 
bullet through the latissimal muscles under his right arm, but the 
wound had stopped bleeding and with caution would probably keep 
all right for a few hours — 

Gavin's gaze flew to the instrument panel. The fuel-gauge showed 
almost one-half of capacity, which should be more than enough to 
take them home — though it would not be safe to take an enemy 
plane farther than the first friendly outpost that the radio could con- 
tact. 

Altitude, seventeen thousand; speed, just over eight hundred; 
course — 

Gavin grinned, suddenly aware that a considerable time had passed 
with no lapse of memory. He was now fairly sure one would not 
occur, for in order to be where they seemed to be, several hours must 
have passed. Also, while his vitals ached with a hunger that was 
making him a little light-headed, he did not feel overly tired, which 
could only mean that he had slept. In all probability, the effect of 
the drug had fallen below the neural-dissociative level. He relaxed 
systematically — and, as the tautness left his nerves, he realized that 
he was wearier than he had thought. 

According to the somewhat demented magnetic compass, their 
course was approximately north. The plane had not been guided 
thus far by that venerable instrument, however, but by a gyroscopic 
grandson known as the ortho-compass, especially developed for trans- 
polar navigation. For once, Gavin was glad the enemy had contrived 
to steal it. Just now, the indicator under its calibrated bell-crystal 
was pointing straight up. More significant was the reading of its 
geared-in longitude-recorder, which was in the slow process of 
changing from 98° E to 82" W. 

Actually, their course was due south. Since they were moving, it 
had to be. For there was little doubt that they were sitting on top of 
the world. 




TREE OF 



by John Christopher 



WRATH 



For the first time, Man encountered an unmistakable 
deity. Bui this god happened to be a vegetable. . . . 



TELECOMMUNICATIONS INTER-SECTION MEMO 



Appended note: 
Dave: 

It was a lot easier than we had thought. Larkin may be difficult 
to get at, but he's a friendly old cuss, garrulous in fact. It certainly 
was tricky getting to him. As you know, he practically owns south- 
ern Italy and within his sphere of influence he's managed to ban 
every form of transport more recent than railroads. TOURISTRADE 
and the Vatican support him in this. 

I took stratoliner to Firenze, and went by rail from there. Less 
than three hundred miles and it took me all day! The train got into 
Naples around 1900, and a small branch line (electrified) took me 
out to Larkin's place at Castellammare. It's a small villa as they go 
in these parts, but the grounds are extensive. It squats on the lip of 
the cliff; there's the Bay of Naples in front and Vesuvius steaming 
away just behind. When I reached the inner sanctum it was dusk, 
following a bright spring day. The sea was all purple and glassy and 



Cartwright from Sotrenski 



3-17-78 



Assignment completed. Story herewith. 



28 



TREE OF WRATH 



29 



somehow from the height shadows seemed to fall squarely on it, 
making it look like some kind of diffraction grating. Further over 
there were the lights of the city, like nothing I remember seeing be- 
fore. And out on the bay a single-masted ship with white sails — a 
beer boat, Larkin told me! There was some kind of big bird, too, a 
golden color, drifting down in wide circles to that purple-checked sea. 

All right, I'll save the adjectives. It's only that I know you will be 
reading this in Detroit, and by God those March winds will be tear- 
ing your guts out, and I'm still in Castellammare, in the best guest 
room at the Villa Campanese. Larkin seems glad of the company, 
and I know I'm glad of the rest. 

He's not the cocksure, arrogant type I'd half expected; he was 
pleased to hear we were including him in the "Makers of the Modern 
World" series and, I think, genuinely flattered. He made some very 
intelligent comments on the Hewison program of last December, and 
gave me some information on Hewison's part in the Tycho rebellion 
affair that I've never even heard rumored in Mick's place on a Satur- 
day night. It's all sub rosa, of course, and even you won't get under 
this rose-bush. 

In fact, his remarks were so intelligent that I more or less left it 
to him what story we should use. There were a lot of possibles. That 
first business on Venus, the de Passy case, the isotopes boom . . . 
I thought he might choose one of those, or even something more ob- 
scure still. But he didn't. He chose the obvious. 

After all, as he confided to me over a liter of Lacrimae Christi, 
Orvieto, '54, it was the only time he could be said, categorically and 
with hardly any shadow of doubt, to have Saved the World. 

Story follows. 

When, by an act of justifiable homicide, Max Larkin removed 
de Passy's daughter and his solitary success in his attempt to create 
a homo supremus, Genetics Division went somewhat off balance. 
For twenty years the planning staff had been making their prepara- 
tions for the day when Helen de Passy would put fathomless power 
into their hands; when, inevitably, the dynamic balance of the mana- 
gerial society of the twenty-second century would be resolved into a 
dictatorship of one body, Genetics Division, and one small group of 



30 



WORLDS BEYOND 



men. The dissolution of this dream had, to put it mildly, an un- 
settling effect. 

Genetics had always been one of the most severely disciplined of 
the major organizations; and their discipline, during the years of 
hopeful preparation for power, had reached fantastic limits. This 
was now, through a deliberate act of policy by the planning staff, re- 
versed. De Passy had been a lone wolf, and de Passy had brought 
them within sight of the promised land. Lightning might just possibly 
strike twice. To encourage its chances their young men of promise 
were scattered wide and left to their own resources, oiled by frequent 
and generous applications of the necessary finance. 

One of the young men was Harl Parrish. 

It is interesting to remember that Parrish only just qualified for a 
share of the funds that Genetics were, at this stage, pouring around 
like water. He had a good, but not exceptional degree, and his post- 
graduate work had merited no more than a cautious — "Might do 
things: personality unpromising" — from the Director of the Cologne 
Lab. Anyway, he got the grant. He returned to his native Washing- 
ton, to a small town between eighty and ninety miles north of Seattle. 
There, on wooded slopes overlooking the town, Genetics Division 
built him a small, one-man laboratory. 

They didn't quite forget about him. The checks he cashed were 
entered in the usual files, and so were the laconic monthly reports he 
sent. It's doubtful if anyone, at that stage, bothered to read them. 
If they had it is difficult to imagine that even the laxness then cur- 
rent in Genetics Administration could have passed them without 
action. Max Larkin has a photostat of the first report Harl Parrish 
sent in. It's headed: 

"Some Preliminary Notes on Work in the Evolution of Plant In- 
telligence.'' 

There have been many sane and level-headed men who devoted 
their lives to the unraveling of what their contemporaries would cer- 
tainly have regarded as fantastic lunacy; and who unraveled it. Par- 
rish was not of that type. If the research worker of genius is a fifty- 
fifty blend of critic and dreamer, Parrish was more like ten-ninety. 
If s quite dear from his reports that he never got around to any de- 
tailed plan of work, or even to any clear view of what he was aim- 



TREE OF WRATH 



31 



ing at and what obstacles lay in his path. Any practical observei 
would have put his chances of doing anything at all at very close to 
nil. He tried irradiation— with everything from ordinary light and 
sound to mesons — chemical impregnation, Lysenko grafting, controlled 
challenges and inhibitions, and something that reads perilously like 
an offshoot of Steiner's theosophy. He tackled a range of subjects 
from pansies to sequoias, without any kind of system. If there had 
even been a good accountant at Genetics H.Q. — a layman without 
any pretensions to understanding of the genetics field — Parrish would 
certainly have been stopped in his first year and put onto a safe, 
uneventful clerking job. Common sense would have stopped him. 
And common sense would have been wrong. 

For Harl Parrish had one quality, developed to an extraordinary 
degree, that impregnated every wild scheme he followed with the 
possibility of success. He could see things when they happened. 

That's a poor way of putting it, of course. You might call it, with 
a finer shade of understanding, the Eureka faculty. The bath water 
rises by an amount equivalent to the displacing volume. An apple 
falls, and someone sees why. A mold grows accidentally in a labora- 
tory, and a man notices that around it there is sterility. The events 
are accidental, but the apprehension is not. Harl Parrish was gro- 
tesquely inferior, in almost every way, to Archimedes and Newton 
and Fleming, but in just this one respect he was their peer — in fact, 
their master. He muddled away in his small log-cabin laboratory 
and all he needed was a really fantastic stroke of luck. In due course 
he had it — and he knew what to do with it. 

From his notes, which were sketchy, imprecise and generally 
woolly, the only thing that emerges clearly is that the plant concerned 
was originally a magnolia. It grew in a spot at once sheltered and 
sunny in the garden of the local priest, and Parrish brought a slip 
back with him one autumn evening after one of his usual strolls, 
which generally took in vespers, a few drinks in Hanna's Tavern, 
and a call to discuss gardening with Father Lucas. That is the point 
of departure, but subsequent events are less clear. Parrish took the 
green slip of magnolia with him. He possibly froze it, half roasted 
it, waterlogged it, deprived it of water, packed the roots with radium 
salts, lashed at it with his small cyclotron, subjected it to ultra- 



32 



WORLDS BEYOND 



violet, infra-red and supersonics, grafted a couple of dozen other 
things onto it — and it's impossible to guess what else. We can't dis- 
miss the possibility that he chanted incantations at it under a waning 
and waxing moon. He gave it, you might say, his customary workout. 
Only the plant survived, and this time something worked. 

When Parrish first noticed something the plant had been put on 
one side. It had been potted out in the normal w"ay, and stacked, 
with a hundred other little pots holding various mutilated and mis- 
shapen twigs, in the outbuilding behind his small cottage. It was a 
lean-to shed, and the only natural light filtered in through a crack 
between the sloping roof and the walls. When Parrish went in one 
morning — to get a length of hose he had stacked away there — and 
switched the fluorescent lighting on, he noticed, of course, that the 
potted plants were kinked in the direction of the thin shaft of ex- 
terior illumination. Simple phototropism. But he stayed in the shed 
for three or four minutes, examining the hose for perishing, and at 
the end of that time, as he was on the point of leaving, he glanced 
at the array of discarded experiments again. And he noticed some- 
thing else. One of the plants wasn't kinked at all. It was upright. 

Put in this way, it seems obvious that Parrish should — as he ac- 
tually did — have gone across to examine it. But it isn't obvious at 
all. Acuter, more methodical men than he would never even have 
noticed the minor deviation in stance of one small plant among more 
than a hundred. It would have been thrown with the rest into the 
furnace that periodically took in the deadwood of experiments that 
had not succeeded. But at this point Parrish's one talent intervened. 
His mind remembered the array of sloping plants; correlated it with 
the second vision of one plant standing out of the line of the rest — 
and the discrepancy clicked. Unusual mobility. He picked out the plant 
and took it with him back into the laboratory. When he got it there 
he made routine checks. Among other things he analyzed the soil in 
the pot. The local earth had a copper percentage around .0004. In 
this sample there wasn't any copper at all. 

It isn't easy for a normal person to put himself inside the mind 
of a man like Harl Parrish, and it is quite impossible for anyone 
now to envisage the kind of results Parrish hoped for from his work. 
"Notes on the Evolution of Plant Intelligence." A lot of his prelimi- 



TREE OF WRATH 



33 



nary work was on mimosas, those strange plants that wither into a 
tangle of dry spikes at the approach of an intruder but which can be 
tamed to accept the ministrations of one particular hand, of one par- 
ticular man. Parrish apparently made quite a few mimosa pets dur- 
ing his early months. And he froze them and baked them and flooded 
them with hard x-rays, and all the rest — but without success. The 
mimosas died, or stayed just mimosas. 

But he had had the experience; the essential experience of treating 
a plant as though it had an animal's sentience. And he applied that 
experience now to the strangely mutated magnolia twig. He watered 
it with a good solution of copper salts, he tried all kinds of fertilizers 
— tentatively and carefully — on its roots, and he applied a battery 
of impulses, light and sound and electricity, to its stimulation. The 
plant thrived. It thrived enormously. And after a time — after quite 
a short time — Parrish's treatment of it ceased to be a matter of 
trial and error. There were no more setbacks of the wrong fertilizer, 
the wrong concentration of copper salts solution, the excessive stimu- 
lus. Everything he did contributed positively to the magnolia's in- 
creasing luxuriance. It wasn't until much later that he understood 
why. 

The record of his dawning apprehension is interesting. It's all 
there, in the scrappy monthly reports that no one ever bothered to 
read. 

December 2163: 

Concentrating entirely on the magnolia, X 35/7, now. Altogether 
astonishing degree of mobility in main stem and small branches, 
now budding well. Originally phototaxic, but recently undeniable 
responses to my own person. When I entered the laboratory two 
nights ago the lighting was on — and the magnolia swayed unmistak- 
ably in my direction. 

This really is astonishing. 

Continuing to apply heavy solutions of copper salts. Copper as a 
trace element obviously isn't enough. It flourishes in a soil with 
copper above 3,000 p.p.m. 

New leaves burgeoning -are glossy, vaguely ivy-shaped, deep blue- 
green in color. 



34 



WORLDS BEYOND 



January 2164: 

Good leaf growth during month, stem thickened from 1.7 to 5.3 
centimeters diameter. 

Curious event on the 3rd. Was about to water with the usual 
copper-nitrates solution when I had the insistent idea of adding alum. 
Not unusual, but when I had done this and watered the plant there 
was a peculiar sensation of well-being. Difficult to account for. 

Mobility continues. 

February 2164: 

Three new side branches, eight new leaves. Stem diameter 8.4 
centimeters. 

Decided to remove X 35/7 from pot in laboratory, and bed out 
in wood. 
Or did I? 

March 2164: 

Stem diameter 37 centimeters. (!) Side branches over a hundred; 
leaves uncountable. Around the magnolia, for a matter of ten yards 
in all directions, every other tree and bush is displaying clear signs 
of withering. 

The Tree explains that it is killing them, because it has to. 

Parrish submitted no further reports. And he cashed no more 
checks. Under anything like normal conditions, even allowing for 
the laxness over his unusual progress reports, there would have been 
an investigating party along as soon as the reports stopped and the 
money began to pile up in Parrish's account. But the chaos at Gene- 
tics H.Q. didn't even flicker. And no one bothered to correlate a 
report from the town of Goldenrod, in the valley below Parrish's 
hideout, of a strange new vegetation sweeping at a fantastic rate along 
the hillside. 

April was cold that year, after a reasonably bright March. May 
came in with bursting sunshine over the state of Washington. And 
on the second of May, Goldenrod broke off all its communications. 

The world, of course, woke up with a bang. Telecommunications 
acted, tentatively at first — the usual junior reporter in a gyro, with- 



TREE OF WRATH 



35 



out even a mobile telecaster. But his report, and the dozen stills he 
sent, brought full action. 

From the air it was still possible to make out some vague outlines 
of the town — the church spire was lovingly entwined with foliage 
but its shape could still be discerned, soaring out of the tossing blue- 
green sea all around it. That sea extended a matter of more than a 
mile up the valley on either side of the town, and its peripheral ex- 
pansion was a clearly visible growth of about ten yards an hour. The 
growth was by running suckers, both above and below ground. 

The natural, automatic reaction was of counterattack. Flame 
throwers were brought up and blasted an avenue several yards into 
the tangled, burgeoning mass before their effect failed, and the large, 
glossy, ivy-shaped leaves began to float eagerly, hungrily forward 
into the very breath of the flame. Acids did not even have any 
temporary effect; their spray dripped off the smooth, oily foliage to 
wither the few small plants surviving in the shade of the monster. 
An experimental electrified fence was simultaneously vaulted and 
broken by the pushing, blue-green tentacles. 

Atomics brought an atom bomb out of stock. When the foliage 
had advanced another three miles along the valley, they used it. 
The crater formed was overgrown in less than three hours. 

As far as United Chemicals were concerned the prevailing feeling 
was still, even at this stage, rather one of pique than of serious alarm, 
an annoyance slightly modified by the fact that World Electrics and 
Atomics had had even less effect in stopping the plant growth than 
had their own initial efforts. Director Hewison explained this to Max 
Larkin, with his usual pompous agitation. 

Max said, "Flame, acids, electrocution, and now atom bombs 
won't touch it. It overgrew the atom crater immediately. I take it 
we can rule out radioactive spraying as well, then." 

Hewison paused in pacing up and down his well-appointed office 
to stare with bloodshot vision at a recently acquired Jan van Eyck. 

He said, "I'll tell you how much that cost me some day, Max. 
Worth it, too. Worth every penny. Radioactive spraying? Of course 
it's a waste of time. Atomics are trying it all the same. Everybody's 
trying everything. Genetics are hopefully plastering the area with 
fungi. Fungi!" 



36 



WORLDS BEYOND 



Max said, "It isn't such a bad idea to try everything." He paused. 
"By the way, what makes people think it's lethal?" 

"Lethal? The plant? Well, damn it, it kills off everything else 
bigger than a pansy. You've seen the telecasts." 

"Yes, plants," Max said patiently. "I was thinking of animal life. 
Does it strangle rabbits?" 

Hewison looked at him. "I don't know." He flicked a switch on 
his desk. "Telecommunications, Vienna. Get me Nachtvogel. Hans? 
Can you give us a view of that damned forest at some place where 
our people aren't bouncing chemicals and germs off it? The north 
side, perhaps? Thanks." 

Movement spun into the screen. The leaves were advancing across 
rough scrub grass. They waited and saw a hare, its ears laid back, 
crouched in the path of the advancing tide of blue-shot green. The 
tide crept over it, and the animal did not move. At a word from 
Max the telecasting gyro swooped down, almost brushing with its 
undercarriage the brightly flickering leaves. Something dropped — 
an old box. There was catapulting movement at the tide's edge, as 
the hare, scared by the noise of the dropping object, bounded out 
beyond the compass of plant growth, visibly unharmed. 

Max turned away from the screen. 

"Well," he said to Hewison. "Well, that's interesting." 

Hewison was twisting a small saint, an ivory paper weight, in 
moody preoccupation. He put it down with care and looked at Max 
blankly. 

"So what? We're not rabbits. What do we live on when that stuff 
rolls across the wheat belts? How do we run our factories when 
they're twenty feet deep in those goddamn tendrils? How do we even 
keep communications open? — though thank God that's not our par- 
ticular pigeon." 

Max smiled. "We don't know, do we, yet? But we can go and 
have a look. If a hare can run in and out, perhaps a man can, too. 
It wouldn't do any harm to look at the seat of the trouble. At Par- 
rish's laboratory." 

Hewison took hold of the small, delicately carved figure again. 
His shoulders were hunched in nervousness. 

"I'm scared now, Max," he said. "I wasn't before. Seeing pictures 



TREE OF WRATH 



37 



of the stuff rolling on in the face of flame and acids and everything 
else we put in front of it — that didn't scare me. I don't know why, 
but it didn't. But seeing it roll across that empty field ... Do what 
you think best, Max. Don't waste any time, though. You'll take the 
stratoliner from Graz. I'll see about it." 

"A gyro," Max said firmly. "A small gyro, and I'll run it myself. 
I don't like any kind of air travel, but they aren't all equally detest- 
able." He paused, on his way out of the elaborately furnished room. 
"By the way — that painting. It's not a van Eyck, you know. They 
sold you a pup. Seventeenth century imitation, for my guess." 

Hewison shook his head sorrowfully after the retreating figure. 

The tide of blue-green was still advancing, at about fifteen yards 
an hour now. The local U.C. men shepherding Max led him across 
a ploughed field towards it. A long way over to the left he could see 
the tiny figures of the fighting party, still futilely messing about with 
sprays and canisters. Spennythorpe, the local Manager, shook his 
head. 

"You see, Director Larkin — if you'd only take some means of 
defense with you . . . it's a great responsibility." 

"Mr.," Max said, "not Director. Look — can I carry an atom bomb 
with me? And they've tried atom bombs already. This is a case 
where there's no future in force. At present, anyway, diplomacy's 
the only hope. Don't worry, I'm confident enough." 

But he wasn't entirely confident as he took the first steps on his 
own and ducked forward under the towering crest of leaves. It was 
like plunging into a surf of leaves; he pressed through them, feeling 
their glossy smoothness against his hands and face like a caress full 
of deadly warning. The going was very hard. Scrambling over 
branches that could not have been there a few hours before and were 
already as thick as his arm, he wondered whether there was any hope 
at all of getting through to the center. If it were like this all the 
way ... He began calculating how far he could go in and still have 
a chance of getting back. The thought that behind him the sea was 
still relentlessly spreading outwards was no cheerful reflection. 

The change was startling and almost clear-cut. The tangle thinned, 
thinned rapidly, and he broke through into a strange spaciousness. 
In front of him there was a glade, and beyond it others, to the very 



WORLDS BEYOND 



limit of vision. Soft, blue-green light filtered through the tangle of 
leaves that hid the sky some thirty feet above his head. This spread- 
ing canopy was supported by more or less regularly spaced columnar 
trunks, between thirty and forty feet apart. He saw how the branches 
arched out from the main trunks to meet and support the high 
arches of leaves. It was like some underground limestone grotto, 
but here there was the warmth of life rather than the damp chill of 
stone. On the floor of the glades small plants apparently flourished, 
and he saw traces of animals, and heard the high fluting of birds. 

From that point he went ahead easily enough. It was about six 
miles to the center, and it took him just over an hour and a half. 
He was looking for the town, but he found its inhabitants first. 

A lot of them were resting in what he first thought were artificial 
hammocks, but later recognized as elaborately intertwined construc- 
tions of leaves and small branches growing out of the main stems of 
the tree-columns. It gave him a shock to realize that the men could 
not have constructed these; the tree itself had provided them. 

Others of the townspeople were strolling about, or watching an 
energetic few who were playing a scratch game of baseball in one 
of the glades. They were mostly stripped down to shorts; some were 
naked. They didn't show much surprise, or even interest, at Max's 
appearance. One man called from a hammock: 

"Hi, there. What's it like outside?" 

"Nervous," Max said. "Everybody's nervous. But you don't look 
worried." 

The man considered this for a moment before laughing. 

"What have I got to worry about?" he said. "I callused my hands 
as a carpenter for twenty years. The big boys — the Managers and 
Directors — they may be nervous. It's different for ordinary joes. I 
never had any fancy uniform or office boys to kick around. I'm not 
losing anything." 

"Are you still interested in eating?" Max asked gently. 

"Eating!" The laughter was immediate this time. "I never ate so 
good. Second on the right for the canteen. This Tree provides more 
kinds of fruit than they used to bottle sauces. And drink, too. It's 
the life of Riley, toother, the life of Riley." 

It was a typical reaction. He heard the same from others, especial- 



TREE OF WRATH 



39 



ly the group clustered around the "canteen". Three or four columns 
together were thickly laden with a profuse variety of fruits of differ- 
ent shapes and colors. Max helped himself to some, and sampled 
them thoughtfully. The tastes were all new and, in their different ways, 
satisfying. One fruit was full of a clear, green liquid that quenched 
thirst remarkably well. He was throwing away the empty husk when 
he became aware of someone beside him who was as incongruous 
as he himself was in the half-naked throng. It was a tall, stooped 
man of about forty, wearing a priest's tunic. 

Max said, "It tastes all right to me. What's your opinion, 
Father?" 

Father Lucas pulled at his collar. It was very warm in here, Max 
reflected. Father Lucas said, "I thought at first it might be an im- 
provement. From my point of view I mean, naturally. I've always 
felt that a lot of good time was wasted in work that could be used 
for worship. But now — well, look at them. They're good neither 
for man, beast, nor God. It's only been a week and already they are 
almost too idle even to play. And I don't notice any particular im- 
provement in their characters. They remain quite humanly idle and 
dissolute and vicious." 

Max said, "I'm glad I found you, Father. I think you're probably 
the man who can take me to find Harl Parrish." 

On the way up the hill he explained to the priest that, from the 
evidence of his reports which had now at last been studied, Parrish 
was almost certainly the author of what was taking place. Father 
Lucas nodded, comprehending. 

"It's very likely so. He hasn't been in town for a few weeks. I 
missed seeing him at Sunday vespers. I have been up to his shack 
a time or two. There aren't any bearings now, of course, apart from 
the lie of the land, but I think we should be close to it." 

They were close to something and, set round by a thicker circle 
of soaring trunks, they found it. It lifted from the ground in the 
center of the circle, more than five feet across, its glorious, waxed 
whiteness pulsating to strange vibrations — a tremendous, leafless 
flower. It had no scent, but as they approached they were aware of 
its presence in more ways than by sight. Their heads seemed to beat 
in tune with the odd, rippling rhythms of the gigantic blossom. They 



40 



WORLDS BEYOND 



stared at it, bewildered. They were still staring when Parrish came 
from behind it and approached them. 

In his face, Max noticed, there was a striking absence of the ordi- 
nary human quality of pride. He looked rather white and strained, 
but intensely humble and selfless. Here was the acolyte, attending 
the shrine. 

He said, quite sanely: "Father Lucas! I'm very glad to see you." 
He looked inquiringly at Max. 

Max showed him the small badge that was his passport. 

"United Chemicals," Parrish said. "But why not my own outfit?" 

"At present," Max said cheerfully, "they are more concerned with 
trying out their collection of bugs to see if one of them won't bite 
this tree of yours where it hurts." 

Parrish nodded. "I know about that. And the flame throwers and 
acids and the rest. It's a waste of time, of course. But the Tree 
doesn't mind. It realizes that people can't be made to understand 
right away." 

Max said gendy, "Understand what?" 

"That the world's great age begins anew," Parrish said triumph- 
antly. He looked at Father Lucas. "That heaven smiles, and faiths 
and empires gleam like wrecks of a dissolving dream." 

"Shelley . . ." murmured Father Lucas. "And leave, since naught 
so bright may live ... What precisely is going to happen in our 
newer Athens?" 

"The thing to realize," Parrish explained, "is that practically noth- 
ing is beyond the power of the Tree to achieve. And it is not hostile to 
men — quite the reverse. It wants to help them. Food and shelter — in 
abundance. It has a beautiful control of its own metabolism." His 
voice rose to enthusiasm as the scientist reinforced the disciple. "All 
that any other plant ever did by accident of growth and evolution, 
the Tree can perform by its conscious will. All that, and more. 
Misery and want are banished from the planet." 

"Want, possibly," Father Lucas said. "Misery? ... I suppose 
this green gloom is a necessary evil. This tree of yours can't spare 
the sunshine?" 

"A very temporary necessary evil," Parrish said. "An umbrella 
while those fools toss their acids and lighted matches about. When 



TREE OF WRATH 



41 



the Tree is world-wide, though . . . there will be open spaces for 
men. They'll have sunshine, too. Watch. It's about time." 

Following his gesture, they looked up. As though at a command, 
the vast towering canopy of leafy branches swept outwards and the 
bright vertical shafts of the sun's rays plumbed down to the small 
group, and to the thirsty white petals of the great flower. For more 
than a minute it drank in the warmth and light, before the umbrella 
closed over them again. 

"It generally lasts longer," Parrish said. "A gyro was coming." 

They heard, reinforcing his words, the steady aerial hum, louder 
and then dying away as the patrol gyro passed over. 

"Your communication?" Max said. "Telepathic?" 

Parrish nodded. "A rapport. It takes time. But eventually every- 
one will have it. We will all live in communion with the Tree." 

"That," Father Lucas said briskly, "is ordinary blasphemy, and I 
know how to deal with it." 

Before the other two realized what he was about, he had walked 
across to the flower, and was tearing at the great, waxy petals with 
his hands. The white translucent substance shredded away as he 
savaged it. Harl Parrish cried out in grief and anger and started 
towards him, but before he could do anything they felt the deeper 
throb of para-sensory pain in the air about them, and saw the tentacu- 
lar branches drop like snakes to tighten about the priest and lift him, 
struggling helplessly, into the air. And they saw the branches rip 
his limbs from his struggling body and toss the mutilated, bloody 
corpse to one side like a fly dropped from a swatter. 

Max said evenly: "He was a good man, Parrish. He was a friend 
of yours once. He believed in man's independence and freedom and 
he's gone to his death for it. Well?" 

He kept his eyes on the strained white mask of Parrish's face. 
Parrish said in a choked voice: 

"Why did he do it? Why did he have to do it?" 

Max said: "If the Tree rules this planet for fifty centuries men will 
still come and do the same thing. There always will be men who put 
the race's freedom first. Parrish, the Tree can never succeed in brib- 
ing men with free food and drink and never-ending leisure to barter 
away their independence. They will fight against it, and it will have 



42 



WORLDS BEYOND 



to fight back. You can't be on both sides in this business." 

Harl Parrish said, "I only wanted people to be happy. The Tree 
... It all seemed simple enough." 

"It is," Max said. "Simple enough, but not in the way you thought. 
Man or the Tree, Parrish — there's no middle way." 

Parrish looked in agony at the flower. 

"I'm human," he said. "You're right, I'm a human being." 

"Quick!" Max said urgently. "Is there any way? You made it; you 
know how it thinks, what it needs, what it fears. What — " 

As he was talking, Parrish had looked up. Thoughts were form- 
ing in his mind, but the Tree gave him no time to utter them. One 
branch came down like the crack of a whip and swiftly and efficiently 
broke his neck. 

Max stayed gazing at the flower for some minutes before he left 
the glade. He left the two bodies lying there, and began the long 
walk back to the outer world. At the foot of the hill the townsmen 
called to him to stay and rest, but he walked on. He forced his way 
through the tangled branches at the periphery of the Tree's domain 
at last, and reached the open air. The tide had advanced another 
hundred yards by that time. 

Soon after dusk the preparations began. All night the heavy equip- 
ment rolled into place. At dawn the air was heavy with the noise of 
gyro engines. 

The thick black smoke belched out from the great circle around 
the limit of the Tree's advance, and from the circling gyros overhead. 
It lay like a deep, woolly blanket, hiding the glossy, blue-green leaves, 
stretching all over the too-symmetrical foliage, and beyond it, far 
beyond it. All day the smoke poured out, and all the next day, and 
the next day, for weeks and months. Until, at last, the smoke stopped, 
and as light seeped back to reveal the valley and the hillsides, it was 
clear that the Tree had long been dead. 

End note appended: 
Well, there it is, Dave. 

I asked him how he knew — the Tree killed Parrish before he could 
say anything. That, he explained, was a good enough clue in itself. 



TREE OF WRATH 



43 



There was a way, a simple and effective way, or the Tree would not 
have acted so swifdy. As for what it was— Parrish's instinctive 
glance towards the sky was sufficient. The magnolia twig originally, 
remember, had been notably phototaxic. Confirmation from the 
observers outside that the advance had invariably ceased by night 
was all that was needed. United Chemicals provided a never-ending 
night — locally. 

It must have been a grim walk back, with Larkin trying not to 
think of the obvious, the essential clue, aware of the Tree's ability to 
communicate extrasensorily, and hoping it would not be able to es- 
tablish sufficient rapport before he got out of its clutches. Had it had 
more experience of human psychology, of course, it would have 
guessed what Larkin might have made of Parrish's last gesture. But 
in its experience human beings communicated by speech. Parrish 
had not been allowed to speak; therefore everything was fine. 

There was one more surprise for me. We had had a good dinner, 
with a Tokay like liquid gold and a Friuli aquavita afterwards. He 
told me he had something to show me. He led the way — he's a bit 
doddery now, of course — out through the garden at the back and 
into a kind of covered courtyard, about fifty feet square and some 
fifteen feet high. There were no windows, or any other break apart 
from the entrance door. It was lit artificially. It was like a box. 

'Tt's safe enough here," he said. "Solid concrete for twenty feet 
all round the roots. I ration its nourishment, and its light. When I 
die the door will be locked, and it will die within a week without 
light or food." 

At the center of the courtyard, from the white concrete, the Tree 
in miniature rose from a small oasis of earth. There was even a 
white, waxy blossom, but less than two inches across. It was very 
harmless and a little pathetic. 

"I took a cutting," Larkin explained. 

He went over and stroked the small blossom, as though it were 
a pet animal. He looked at me humorously. 

"I come in here a lot," he said. "I bring a chair in. We get on 
well. We have some fine talks together." 

Off the record, of course, Dave. Right off the record. 



by Bob Tucker 

The Tourist 
Trade 

There were jour oj them, Judy told her parents — 
no, five, counting the woman stuck in the wall. . . . 

Judy had climbed to her place at the breakfast table that morning 
and announced the presence of a ghost in her room the previous 
night, a good-looking man ghost who had courteously asked if she 
were having a nice time. 

And Judy's mother, being a sensible, sane American citizen, said 
nonsense child, there is no such thing as a ghost. 

"Well, then," Judy demanded, "who was the man in my bedroom 
last night,' huh?" 

Mother looked up from the toast, startled. 

"A man, baby?" 

"Yes mama. A good-looking man, gooder-looking even than 
daddy, and he had on a brown uniform like, only it wasn't a soldier's 
uniform of course but just a uniform." 

"A man — with a uniform?" 

"Yes mama. A nice man, you know." 

"No," Mama contradicted, "I don't know. Are you sure you saw 
a man in your room last night?" 

"Sure mama. He was a ghost, a man ghost." 

"Oh, Judy! Those ghosts again. . . . I've asked you time and 
again to stop that! There is no suoft thing as a ghost." 

"Well, maybe not mama, but this man come riding in right through 
my wall on a motor scooter sort of, and he stood up and made a 
speech like that man said at the museum and he asked me if I 
was having a nice time." 

"All that? Judy!" 

44 




THE TOURIST TRADE 



45 



"Yes mama. And I told him yes and he said, that's nice, and he 
set down again and rode the scooter right across my room and went 
right through my other wall." 

"Judy, stop it! You were dreaming." 

"Yes mama. The motor scooter didn't make any noise though 
and he had a uniform on." 

"All right, baby. Forget it, darling." 

Judy didn't forget it; she filed the matter away in whatever stor- 
age cabinet children have for accumulating knowledge and experi- 
ences temporarily unclassifiable. She filed the matter away, some- 
what, until that evening and a new bedtime. Scarcely fifteen min- 
utes after climbing the stairs to bed, she was back down again. ■ 

Daddy was hunched in a chair reading a mystery book, fighting 
off the interfering noise of the radio. Mama was listening to the 
radio and haphazardly working on a jigsaw puzzle. Judy paused in 
the doorway of the living room, her pajamas still unmussed, a robe 
trailing in one hand. 

"Now what do you want, baby? You should have been asleep ten 
minutes ago. . . ." 

"That man ghost is back again." 

"Oh, now Judy! Don't start that again." 



"Well mama, he is, and on top of that he's got some people with 
him this time, and they're all riding in — " 
"Judy!" 
"Yes mama?" 
"Up to bed." 

"Yes mama." The girl turned and slowly climbed the steps. The 
last of her trailing footsteps sounded on the stairs and presently 
the bedroom door slammed in its characteristic manner. Mother 
sighed and looked across the room for help. 

"Donald, you've got to do something. That child has ghosts on 
her mind; all I hear is ghosts, ghosts, ghosts. I'm worried about it. 
Do you think she's been listening to the radio too much?" 

Donald wearily raised his eyes from the book. "All kids go 
through that, forget about it. She's just imaginative, that's all." 

"But such an imagination — it isn't healthy." 



46 



WORLDS BEYOND 



"Oh, bosh. Keep it up and she'll grow up to be an actress, or a 
writer or something. Listen — " He paused as the opening sound 
of Judy's bedroom door came to them. The approaching footsteps 
padded slowly down the stairs. 

Judy paused timidly in the doorway, glancing from one parent to 
the other. 

"It's getting late, Judy," daddy spoke up. "Those ghosts again?" 
"Yes daddy." 

"Won't let you sleep, I suppose?" 
"No daddy." 

"How many of them, do you think?" 

Judy beamed. "Four of them, no five I guess, counting the woman 
stuck in the wall only she's kinda fuzzy and you can't see her very 
good. And the man in the uniform." 

"Oh, a uniform, eh? And what's he doing?" 

"He's showing my room to the rest of them and he drives the 
scooter everybody rides in and he's telling them about my furniture 
and my dolls and things. Daddy, he don't like it very much." 

"Now, really!" Louise broke in. 

"Wait a minute, Louise, I'll handle this." He turned his attention 
to his daughter. "He didn't like your furniture, eh Judy? How do 
you know that?" 

"I could tell by the way he talked, daddy. He said it was Millerya 
or something and he waved his hand and looked down his nose 
like you do when you don't like something. Like it wasn't much 
good, you know. ..." 

"Sure, I know. Millerya, huh? Well, that's too bad. We like it, 
and if he doesn't, he can just lump it, isn't that what you say? What 
are they going to do next?" 

"He wanted to know if there was anybody living in the house 
besides me." 

"Oh, he did, eh? Well, you should have told him we were down 
here." 

"I did daddy. And the man in the uniform said for me to come 
down and tell you they were here." 

"I see." He nodded wisely and prepared to wrap it up. "Well, I 
hate to disappoint your ghost, Judy, but neither your mother or 



THE TOURIST TRADE 



47 



myself feels like climbing the stairs to meet him right now. Will you 
tell him that for me?" 

"Sure thing daddy." 

"All right. Good night, Judy." 

Judy climbed the stairs at a brisk trot and the bedroom door 
slammed in its usual fashion. It was opened again and Judy trotted 
back down just as briskly. She put her head into the living room. 

"Uh . . . what?" He came up from the depths of the book. 
"The ghost says you had better come up there or else." 
"Indeed! Or else what?" 
"Or else he'll report you." 

Donald slammed the book to the floor. Judy jumped in alarm. 

"Well daddy, he did, he did!" the girl cried. 

"Judy — you get right back up those stairs and tell that ghost I'm 
not coming up to meet him. Not until he plays Yankee Doodle on 
a saxophone. Get that?" 

"Yes daddy." 

"All right then, get moving. And good night!" 

"Good night daddy." The young feet retracing the path up the 
stairs and the young hands giving the bedroom door a thumping 
slam. After that the silence from the second floor was a welcome 
thing. 

"There," Donald said in triumph. "I told you I'd handle her. 
Tact. That's all it takes, tact." He dropped into the overstuffed 
chair and sought his place in the mystery novel. 

From Judy's bedroom came the loud, blaring sound of a saxo- 
phone tearing into Yankee Doodle. 

Donald jumped from the chair and hurled the book across the 
room, narrowly missing a vase. Removing his belt from his trousers 
in one angry jerk, he sped for the stairs and bounded upward, two 
steps at a time. His wife shut her eyes and tried to shut her ears 
after the bedroom door opened and slammed shut again. The blar- 
ing of the saxophone ceased. Nervously, she twiddled a piece of the 
jigsaw puzzle in her fingers and waited for the blows to fall. 

Instead, Donald came down the steps and paused in the doorway. 

"Louise—" 



48 



WORLDS BEYOND 



"Yes, Donald?" 

"The ghost wants you to come up there too." 
"Donald!" 

"But he insists. He said he wanted to exhibit the whole blamed 
family, and for you to get up there toot-sweet or he'd report us all. 
Better come along, Louise." 

And he turned to mount the staircase. 

"Ah, at last," the uniformed gentleman exclaimed. He turned to 
address the people waiting behind him, all seated in a low motor 
conveyance. 

"This is a complete family unit of the twentieth century," he an- 
nounced with evident satisfaction. "They spring from a race of 
aborigines inhabiting the North American continent from about the 
fifteenth century through the thirty-third. At the stage of their de- 
velopment you see here, they lived together as a closely-knit family 
unit in dwelling places they called houses, which is a type of build- 
ing containing many small cells similar to this one. Usually each 
member of the unit sleeps in a separate cell but they live together 
in the remainder of those making up the house. 

"Notice the male. At this early stage of history he has already 
assumed the place of head of his family unit and is fond of exhibit- 
ing various mental and physical characteristics to identify himself 
as the leader, or chief. Look closely at his face and you will see 
hair, or fuzz growing. This was known as a beard and was permit- 
ted to grow to assert independence. These early men were extreme- 
ly stubborn, as you noted a moment ago when it was necessary to 
use a musical instrument of the twentieth century to summon him 
from his cell." 

"Go away," Donald said to the uniformed man, "you're bother- 
ing us." 

"Earlier in the rise of their race, as you will soon see when we 
move along to the next stop, the aborigines had not yet learned the 
use of tools and were of course unable to erect buildings such as 
this one. During that distant period they lived in natural caves, 
squatting over continual fires for protection from the elements, for 
warmth, and for cooking. During the present period you see here 



THE TOURIST TRADE 



49 



they had found a means of moving the fires indoors for both warmth 
and cooking, and also developed a few primitive instruments to as- 
sist them in eating. Holding raw food in the fingers has almost 
vanished in the year before you." 

"Well, I like that!" Louise exclaimed. 

"G'wan, beat it," Donald chimed in. "It's the kid's bedtime. 
Shove off." 

"This race," the smartly uniformed man continued, "were called 
Indians, or Americans, the two terms being interchangeable. Sec- 
tions, or tribes, existed among them and each tribe adopted the 
name of some patron saint, protective god or robber baron to whom 
they paid monetary and honorary tribute. Their tribes sometimes 
bore colorful names like Ohio, Dogpatch, Jones, Republican, and 
so forth." 

"You're a radical," Donald exclaimed. "Now get out of here or 
I'll put the dog on you!" 

"Not too much is known of their social cultures because the vari- 
ous tribes were always warring upon each other, making historical 
surveys hazardous and the gathering of information extremely diffi- 
cult. We will make one more stop in this era to observe a gathering 
of the wise men of the tribes, and there you will see laws and cus- 
toms being enacted, taxes collected, and so forth. Afterwards, we 
shall move a bit further along for a quick glimpse of this family's 
forefathers, and perhaps if we are fortunate we shall see them hunt- 
ing in the forests with primitive weapons. During that stage of the 
tour I must remind you to keep your protective shields closed at all 
times, for occasionally stray bolts from their weapons may drop 
among us." He paused, and turned to move a small lever. 

The conveyance began to move across the room, drawing the 
misty lady from the confines of the wall to give her a solid, human 
appearance. The uniformed man cast a glance over his shoulder. 

"And so we say good-by to the colorful, romantic twentieth cen- 
tury with its many tribes, its primitive peoples and its quaint cus- 
toms." He turned to stare at Donald, directing a low-voiced order 
at the dumfounded man. "And see that you get here on time after 
this, chum. No more of that silly saxophone business." 

The conveyance wheeled across the room and vanished into the 



50 



WORLDS BEYOND 



opposite wall, the lady in the rear seat turning for a last amused look 
at the quaint mill-era furniture. Her face faded and the visitors were 
gone. 

"Donald — " his wife quavered. 

"They can't do that to me," Donald roared. "I'm a taxpayer! 
I'll see my precinct committeeman about this!" 
"Wasn't he a nice man, daddy?" 

Daddy correctly reasoned that the nice, uniformed man and his 
strange conveyance of ghostly passengers would be back on the fol- 
lowing night. He readied himself accordingly. 

A few minutes before Judy's usual bedtime the nose of the vehicle 
appeared from one wall of the bedroom and the uniformed guide 
could be seen rising from his seat, preparatory to spouting his lec- 
ture on the twentieth-century family unit. He solidified and glanced 
about the room, noting the absence of Donald's wife and child. 

"Come, come, now," he said with displeasure. "Bring in the re- 
mainder of your family. We have a nice crowd today." 

"I've got a surprise for you," Donald replied softly. 

"Indeed?" said the guide. "What?" 

"This!" Donald cried, and brought from behind him a double- 
barreled shotgun. He raised the weapon and fired both barrels at 
the crowded car. Plaster fountained from the opposite wall and the 
bedroom window crashed down in shards. 

The guide shook his head. "For shame! Please call the family — " 
he reached behind him to pick up a saxophone — "or must I per- 
form another tune? 

"This," he said to the watching tourists, "is a male of the twen- 
tieth century. You have just witnessed a primitive fireworks display 
used by these people to welcome visitors to their land or to celebrate 
special holidays dedicated to their gods. It would be a generous ges- 
ture on our part to show this man we appreciate the display he has 
prepared for us. Early peoples, you know, thrive on flattery and 
attention." He broke into a polite applause and the tourists seated 
behind him took it up. Someone pitched a few coins. 

Donald hurled the gun to the floor and stamped on it. 

"The twentieth-century man is now beginning his dance of wel- 



THE TOURIST TRADE 



51 



come, a tribal ritual which has come down to him from the camp- 
fires of his ancestors who roamed the forests still hundreds of years 
away. I hold in my hand a musical instrument of this age called a 
saxophone, and presently I will blow a little tune which will sum- 
mon his mate and child from the nether regions of the building in 
which they dwell. . . ." 

Donald kept trying. On the following night he had laboriously 
strung a length of hose from the second-floor bathroom to the bed- 
room, and as the visitors emerged from the wall — a rather thin 
crowd this particular trip — he attempted to douse them with a strong 
stream of water. The water squirted through the visitors and splashed 
down the cracked wall on the opposite side of the room. 

"This," said the guide, "is a twentieth-century male. He is wel- 
coming us to his dwelling place with a water ritual designed to wash 
away the evil spirits which he fears may hamper our coming. When 
he has thoroughly cleansed the walls of his dwelling and made the 
unit safe for us, he will begin his. dance of welcome and we will be 
expected to show our appreciation by applause or small gifts and 
coins. Afterward, by making notes on this instrument in my hand, 
the remainder of his family will approach. Now, note the quaint 
furniture of the — " 

In an aside as he was leaving, the guide confided to Donald, 
"Keep it up, chum. You put on the best show on my entire run. 
We're getting good word-of-mouth advertising." 

Donald kept it up. He tried stink bombs, which succeeded only 
in forcing him and his family out of the house; he brought in a 
radio, a phonograph, several automobile horns and a borrowed siren 
in an effort to drive away the tourists from the future by a sheer 
wall of noise, and succeeded only in blasting his own eardrums; he 
turned a swarm of bees loose in the room and wound up with nu- 
merous stings; he was forcefully prevented by his wife from piling 
the furniture and the bedding in the room's center and setting fire 
to it as the guide and his conveyance appeared through the wall. 

"This is a man of the twentieth century. He is preparing to wel- 
come us by setting fire to those numerous small red objects you see 
lying about the floor of the dwelling unit. Presently the red objects 
will explode with a tremendous repercussion, driving away evil spirits 



52 



WORLDS BEYOND 



lurking here — he believes — and making our visit a safe one. Now, 
please note — " 

A red-eyed, haggard man stood on a street corner, leaning dazedly 
against the lamp post. His wife had left him and returned to her 
mother, declaring that she and their child would return to that hor- 
rible house when — and only when — he had rid Judy's room of those 
horrible visitations once and for all. He hadn't reported for work 
for over a week and his job was in danger; he hadn't slept for the 
same length of time and his health was in similar jeopardy. His 
friends avoided him, believing he had fallen into the clutches of the 
demon rum. All in all, he was a sad specimen of twentieth-century 
man. And he was on the mental verge of ending it all when the bus 
went by. 

Someone babbling in a loud voice caught his attention and he 
glanced up, cringing instinctively at the sight of a rubberneck bus 
wheeling along the street. Sick at heart, he turned his back to dis- 
cover passers-by gazing curiously back at the bus. 

Donald opened his eyes wide. 

The low-bodied motor conveyance began its nightly appearance 
through the wall, and Donald saw the guide rising from his seat to 
address the tourists behind him. Donald folded his arms and waited. 
The entire vehicle came into view, well-crowded, and stopped. 

The uniformed guide looked at him inquiringly. 

"Pretty quiet around here, chum. Can't you whip up something?" 

"I certainly can, mister," Donald told him. "Just you wait right 
here." He crossed to the bedroom door and flung it open, jumping 
back to avoid the mob. "Here they are folks," he shouted, "as ad- 
vertised." Holding out his hat, he admitted the crowd into the room, 
watching carefully to see that each dropped a coin into the receptacle. 

"Real, genuine ghosts, folks, the only haunted house in Liberty- 
ville! Each night and every night on the hour this ghostly crew 
rides out of that wall yonder and parades across the room. Step 
right up to them folks, try to touch them, try to feel them. You 
can't! Come right in and meet my ghosts." 

The small bedroom was suddenly filled with awed, milling people 



THE TOURIST TRADE 



53 



crowding forward to gaze at the ghostly conveyance. Curious hands 
reached out to touch the future tourists, only to grasp the empty air. 
Flash guns popped as newspaper photographers snapped what they 
hoped would be pictures of the visitation. A representative of the 
American Ethereal Society pinched his glasses to his nose and held a 
lighted match to the ghostly guide's natty uniform, testing to see if 
flaming gauze netting would reveal a trickery. The guide stared at the 
flashbulbs, slightly taken aback. 

"Come now," he said, "this will be reported." 

"He talks, he walks, he plays a saxophone!" Donald shouted 
above the din. "A real, genuine ghost, folks, step right up and take 
a look at the real article!" 

"Where in hell did they come from?" a reporter wanted to know, 
brazenly pushing two fingers into and through the disapproving face 
of the guide. "I'm damned if they scare me!" 

"He's a legend connected with the house," Donald explained glibly. 
"According to the story, this fellow in the uniform was an eccentric 
inventor who used to live here but he finally killed himself. The 
story says he was a 4-F but he wore that uniform to ease his con- 
science; he always claimed to be inventing war machines for the gov- 
ernment. See all those people behind him?" 

Necks craned to look at the tourists. 

"They were murdered!" Donald whispered hoarsely. "According 
to the legend, this crazy inventor murdered them all and sealed their 
bodies up in the wall. And now, every night, he lines up all the 
ghosts on this crazy machine he imagines he invented and rides them 
through the walls. . . ." 

A fresh onslaught of people in the doorway drew his attention. 
Snatching up the hatful of jingling coins, Donald fought his way to 
the door. 

"Step right in, folks, the ghosts are here! Come right in and meet 
genuine ghosts in the only haunted house in town! Each night and 
every night — " 

Donald's wife and child returned home the following weekend. 
Judy was installed in a new bedroom, and in due time developed an 
intense interest in Hopalong Cassidy. 



by Rumer Godden 

GHOST OF 
MR. KITCAT 

There is no explanation," said Eleanor. 

No one in the family ever spoke of it to Gil, though once or twice 
Lucille privately asked Eleanor, "What was it about Mr. Kitcat, 
Mother? How can you explain it?" 

"There is no explanation," said Eleanor. 

Gil Mulready was an author; he was a journalist as well, an untidy, 
irritable, irascible, highly nervous, blasphemous man of thirty-five; 
they called him Gil Blast. He was tall and thin, with dark curly hair, 
and horn-rimmed glasses and nervous, deep lines on his forehead. 

His wife, Eleanor, was a calm young woman with pale red hair. 
She was the axis of Gil's world and at the same time remained his 
pole star. They had two children, Lucille who was nine, and little 
Gil who was six, and a fat black spaniel called Boly. They lived in 
the upper half of a pleasant house in Westminster. 

Eleanor came down to breakfast one morning to find the other 
three already there. Gil was reading out of the paper. "Foster," read 
Gil. "Fothersgil. Formby. Friar." 

"Too muffled," said Lucille. 

"Geddes. Gillington-Tudor. Guys." 

"Too posh," said little Gil. 

"What in the world are you doing?" asked Eleanor as she sat 
down and picked up the coffee pot. "Wipe your mouth, Gilly. Gil 
dear, your tie is undone." 

"We are looking for names." said Lucille. "For a name in Dad's 

Reprinted by permission of the author. 




54 



GHOST OF MR. KITCAT 



55 



story. It's for a little old man with tinted spectacles and a grey 
beard." 

"Like a goat's," said little Gil. 

"I look down the Deaths column," explained Gil, "and that's how 
I find my names." 

"Down the Deaths column?" Eleanor paused with the coffee pot in 
her hand. "No, Gil," she said slowly, "I don't think you ought to do 
that." 

"Why not?" 

"It . . . doesn't seem . . . reverent." 
"That's sheer superstition." 
"All the same ..." 

"They have finished with their names, haven't they?" said Gil. 
" They don't need them any more." 
"No . . . but . . ." 
"Well then?" 

"They still belong to them," said Eleanor. "I think they might 
object." 

"How can they object? They are dead." 

"Yes ... but . . ." and she said calmly, but with a curious reality, 
"you don't know what you might start." 

"Nonsense! What putrid damn nonsense!" shouted Gil. "Don't ever 
let me hear you talk like that again." 

"You must do as you like," said Eleanor, passing him his cup. 
"I only know I wouldn't." 

Her words seemed to float over the breakfast table. Gil glared 
and spilt his coffee as he put it down. He picked up the paper and 
went on reading it. 

"Hetherington. Ingles. Jones. Jones. Judge. Kelly. Here's the 
very name," he said. "Listen, brats. Kitcat." He read it out again. 
"Kitcat. I think that's got him. Mr. Kitcat." 

It was a day or two later when Gil was coming home in the 
tube that he noticed a little man sitting opposite him; he was a neat 
elderly little man with patent leather shoes, grey spats, speckled 
trousers, grey waistcoat, black coat, grey gloves and an old-fashioned, 
square-looking black hat. He carried an umbrella and a paper of 



56 WORLDS BEYOND 

roses. He had rosy cheeks and cut whiskers, and he wore spectacles 
that, as he turned his head, seemed to Gil to be colored faintly in 
amber. He had a little beard combed into a point; as Gil looked at 
him he had a feeling he had seen that beard before. 

The little man followed Gil out of the train and up the stairs and 
past the ticket collector. He followed Gil out of the station and 
walked behind him down the road swinging his umbrella and looking 
as if he enjoyed the sunny air. He turned behind Gil into Gil's own 
road and disappeared a few doors down. 

Gil walked slowly back to look, impelled by some reason he could 
not explain. It was a small block of flats where a porter could be 
seen standing behind glass doors. There was a double notice board 
in the shape of an arrowhead outside. "Edward's Chambers. Odd!" 
said Gil. "I never noticed them before." 

Next day the little man was there, sitting opposite Gil in the tube, 
following him out of the station, turning into his road and disappear- 
ing into Edward's Chambers. The day after, Gil left early. The little 
man was there in the tube. The whole week, at whatever time Gil 
came home, the little man was there. At the end of the week, he 
changed and came home by bus. The little man boarded the bus at 
the next stop, climbed upstairs and sat down on the seat behind Gil. 

That evening Eleanor first had an inkling that something was 
wrong. Lucille knelt up on the hearthrug where she had been tickling 
Boly and asked, "Did you ever write that story, Dad? The one about 
Mr. Kitcat?" 

"What in the name of blazes and thunder is that to do with you?" 
exploded Gil. 
"Gil dear!" 

"This house," shouted Gil, "is nothing but a blazing bear garden 
of children and dogs." 

"Two children and one dog," said Lucille, her voice trembling. 
"And one child is in bed and the other's going there now. So there." 

Gil sat with his head dropped in his hands, pushing his glasses up 
and down wretchedly. "It's nonsense. It's impossible," said Gil. 

Presently he heaved himself out of his chair and went upstairs to 
Lucille. 



GHOST OF MR. KITCAT 



57 



The next day he dawdled behind the little man and followed him 
home. He waited outside the Chambers until the porter came out. 
"Who is that gentleman?" he asked the porter. "The little old gentle- 
man who went in just now." 

"A Mr. Kitcat," said the porter. "A nice gentleman." 

Gil did not go home. He turned back to the station and presently 
found himself in a cafe sitting on a rush chair at a rush table picking 
flowers to pieces from a green pottery bowl. 

"Yes, please?" the waitress in a green overall was saying. "Please 
don't do that to our flowers. Yes, please?" 

"Some strong black coffee," said Gil. 

That night Eleanor heard Gil in the bathroom. 

"What is it, Gil?" 

"Isn't there a damn blasted thing in this putrid medicine cup- 
board?" 

"What do you want?" 

"I can only find kids' muck." 

"What do you want?" 

"Aspirin. I can't sleep," said Gil. 

It was the next day that Mr. Kitcat spoke to him. Gil tried now 
to get away quickly in the crowd but that evening he was held, 
pinned behind two women with two prams. Mr. Kitcat was on him 
before Gil saw. 

"Good evening," said Mr. Kitcat. That was all he said, but Gil 
jumped as though a hornet had stung him. 

"Excuse me, my dear sir," said Mr. Kitcat. He had the voice that 
Gil had given him, slight and careful and a little mincing. "My dear 
sir ..." 

"No. I can't. I won't," spluttered Gil. The woman in front of him 
turned her pram neatly to the wall, nearly bringing him down as he 
tried to edge past her. 

"One moment," said Mr. Kitcat. "I feel I ought to say . . ." 

"No!" cried Gil in panic. "No!" 

"I only wanted to tell you," said Mr. Kitcat, ruffled, "I only wanted 
to tell you that I think you've forgotten, sir, to tie your tie." 

That evening Lucille came to Gil's desk and knelt on the chair and 
looked at him solemnly. "Do you think it's possible," she said, "for 



58 



WORLDS BEYOND 



a ghost to give you bulls' eyes?" And she held out a little paper bag. 
"Who — gave you bulls' eyes?" 

"Mr. Kitcat. It's not nonsense," said Lucille quickly before he 
could speak. "Gilly and I were selling Queen Alexandra roses. We 
had to do the right side of the road. The porter took us up and he, 
Mr. Kitcat, came to the door. He is Mr. Kitcat, a little old man with 
the spectacles and the beard. His card was on the door. 'Mr. Kitcat.' 
No initial. Gilly saw it and so did I. He gave us the bulls' eyes." 

Gil went to Eleanor. He fidgeted round the room. 

"Yes, Gil?" 

"Why are the children allowed to go peddling things in the street?" 
lie burst out. 

Eleanor put down her sewing. "Why don't you sit down and tell 
me all about it," she suggested. "Well, you needn't really tell me, 
Gil. I know." 

Two days later Mr. Kitcat disappeared. He was not in the tube. 
He was not on the stairs, nor in the street. He did not come behind 
Gil down the road and he did not disappear into the Chambers. The 
next night he was not there either. Gil bought a bunch of jonquils at 
the corner. He was not there the night after that, nor the night after 
that. 

Gil stopped and asked the porter. "I — hope — Mr. Kitcat isn't 
ill?" 

"Mr. Kitcat? Mr. Kitcat's gone." 
"Gone?" 

"Gone," said the porter. "Mr. Kitcat's gone." 

Gil was watching Eleanor. "Eleanor," he said, "this is something 
to do with you." 

"Where did you get him from, Gil?" said Eleanor. 

"From the Deaths column of the Times. Eleanor, what did you 
do?" 

"It cost four guineas," said Eleanor dreamily, "but I think it was 
worth it — for our peace of mind. I think .that's worth almost any- 
thing, don't you? What did I do, Gil? I put him back among the 
Births." 




Half a million 
people watched the 
great ship take off . . . 
and not one guessed the 
incredible secret 
of its crew! 



SURVIVAL SHIP 

by Judith Merril 

Half a million people actually made the round trip to Space Sta- 
tion One that day, to watch the takeoff in person. And back on 
Earth a hundred million video screens flashed the picture of Cap- 
tain Melnick's gloved hand waving a dramatic farewell at the port, 
while the other hand slowly pressed down the lever that would fire 
the ship out beyond the orbit of the artificial satellite, past the 
Moon and the planets, into unknown space. 

From Station, Earth and Moon, a hundred million winged wishes 
added their power to the surge of the jets, as a rising spiral of fire 
inside the greatest rocket tower ever built marked the departure 
of the thrice-blessed ship, Survival. In the great churches, from 
pole to pole, services were held all day, speeding the giant vessel 
on its way, calling on the aid of the Lord for the Twenty and Four 
who manned the ship. 

At mountain-top telescopes a dozen cameras faithfully transmit- 
ted the messages of great unblinking glass eyes. Small home sets 
and massive pulpit screens alike looked to the sky to follow the 
flare dimming in the distance, to watch the man-made star falling 
away. 



59 



60 



WORLDS BEYOND 



Inside the great ship, Melnick's hand left the firing lever, then 
began adjusting the chin-rest and the earphones of the acceleration 
couch. The indicator dashboard, designed for prone eye-level, leaped 
into focus. Securing the couch straps with the swift competence of 
habit, the Captain intently watched the sweep of the big second- 
hand around the takeoff-timer, aware at the same time that green 
lights were beginning to glow at the other end of the board. The in- 
dicator reached the first red mark. 

"The show's over, everybody. We're in business!" The mike built 
into the chin-rest carried the Captain's taut voice all over the ship. 
"Report, all stations!" 

"Number One, all secure!" Melnick mentally ticked off the first 
green light, glowing to prove the astrogator's couch was in use. 

"Number two, all secure!" 

"Number three" . . . "four" . . . "five." The rhythmic sing-song 
of pinpoint timing in takeoff was second nature by now to the whole 
crew. One after another, the green lights glowed for safety, punc- 
tuating the litany, and the gong from the timer put a period neatly 
in place after the final "All secure!" 

"Eight seconds to blackout," the Captain's voice warned. "Seven 
. . . six . . . stand by." The first wave of acceleration shock reeled 
into twenty-four helmet-sheathed heads on twenty-four individually 
designed headrests. "Five . . ." It's got to work, Melnick was think- 
ing, fighting off unconsciousness with fierce intensity. "Four . . ." It's 
got to ... got to . . . "Three . . ." got to ... go to . . . "Two 
. . ." got to . . . 

At the Space Station, a half-million watchers were slowly cleared 
from the giant takeoff platform. They filed in long orderly lines 
down the ramps to the interior, and waited there for the smaller 
Earth-rockets that would take them home. Waiting, they were at 
once elated and disappointed. They had seen no more than could 
be seen at the same place on any other day. The entire rocket area 
had been fenced off, with a double cordon of guards to make sure 
that too-curious visitors stayed out of range. Official explanations 
mentioned the new engine, the new fuel, the danger of escaping 
gases — but nobody believed it. Every one of the half-million visitors 



SURVIVAL SHIP 



61 



knew what the mystery was : the crew, and nothing eke. Giant video 
screens all over the platform gave the crowd details and closeups, 
the same that they would have seen had they stayed comfortably at 
home. They saw the Captain's gloved hand, at the last, but not the 
Captain's face. 

There was muttering and complaining . . . but there was some- 
thing else, too. Each man, woman, and child who went to the Sta- 
tion that day would be able to say, years later, "I was there when 
the Survival took off. You never saw anything so big in your life." 

Because it wasn't just another planet hop. It wasn't just like the 
hundreds of other takeoffs. It was the Survival, the greatest space- 
ship ever engineered. People didn't think of the Survival in terms of 
miles-per-second; they said, "Sirius in fifteen years!" 

From Sunday supplements to dignified periodicals, nearly every 
medium of communication on Earth had carried the story. Brightly 
colored graphs made visibly simple the natural balance of life forces 
in which plants and animals could maintain a permanently fresh 
atmosphere, as well as a self-perpetuating food supply. Lecture- 
demonstrations and videocasts showed how centrifugal force would 
replace gravity. 

For months before takeoff, the press and video followed the pre- 
parations with daily intimate accounts. The world over, people 
knew the nicknames of pigs, calves, chickens, and crew members — 
and even the proper botanical name of the latest minor master- 
piece of the biochemists, a hybrid plant whose root, stems, leaves, 
buds, blossoms, and fruit were all edible, nourishing and delicious, 
and which had the added advantage of being the thirstiest C0 2 
drinker ever found. 

The public knew the nicknames of the crew, and the proper name 
of the plant. But they never found out, not even the half-million who 
went to the field to see for themselves, the real identity of the Twenty 
and Four who comprised the crew. They knew that thousands had 
applied; that it was necessary to be single, under twenty-five, and 
a graduate engineer in order to get as far as the physical exam; that 
the crew was mixed in sex, with the object of filling the specially- 
equipped riursery, and raising a second generation for the return 
trip, if, as was hoped, a lengthy stay on Sirius' planet proved pos- 



62 



WORLDS BEYOND 



sible. They knew, for that matter, all the small characteristics and 
personal idiosyncrasies of the crew members — what they ate, how 
they dressed, their favorite games, theaters, music, books, cigarettes, 
preachers, and political parties. There were only two things the 
public didn't know, and couldn't find out: the real names of the 
mysterious Twenty and Four; and the reason why those names were 
kept secret. 

There were as many rumors as there were newsmen or radio- 
reporters, of course. Hundreds of explanations were offered at one 
time or another. But still nobody knew — nobody except the half- 
hundred Very Important Persons who had planned the project, and 
the Twenty and Four themselves. 

And now, as the pinpoint of light faded out of the screens of 
televisors all over Earth, the linear and rotary acceleration of the 
great ship began to adjust to the needs of the human body. "Grav- 
ity" in the living quarters gradually approached Earth-normal. Tor- 
tured bodies relaxed in the acceleration couches, where the straps 
had held them securely positioned through the initial stage, so as 
to keep the blood and guts where they belonged, and to prevent the 
stomach from following its natural tendency to emerge through the 
backbone. Finally, stunned brain cells awoke to the recognition 
that danger signals were no longer coming through from shocked, 
excited tissues. 

Captain Melnick was the first to awake. The row of lights on the 
board still glowed green. Fumbling a little with the straps, Melnick 
watched tensely to see if the indicator lights were functioning proper- 
ly, sighing with relief as the one at the head of the board went dead, 
operated automatically by the removal of body weight from the 
couch. 

It was right — it was essential — for the Captain to wake up first. 
If any of the men had showed superior recuperative powers, it could 
be bad. Melnick thought wearily of the years and years ahead 
during which this artificial dominance had to be maintained in de- 
fiance of all Earth conditioning. But of course it would not be that 
bad, really. The crew had been picked for ability to conform to the un- 
usual circumstances; they were all without strong family ties or pre- 
judices. Habit would establish the new castes soon enough, but the 



SURVIVAL SHIP 



63 



beginning was crucial. Survival was more than a matter of plant- 
animal balance and automatic gravity. 

While the Captain watched, another light went out, and then 
another. Officers, both of them: good. Three more lights died out 
together. Then men were beginning to awaken, and it was reassur- 
ing to know that their own couch panels would show them that the 
officers had revived first. In any case, there was no more "time for 
worrying. There were things to be done. 

A detail was sent off immediately to attend to the animals, re- 
lease them from the confinement of the specially prepared accelera- 
tion pens, and check them for any possible damage incurred in spite 
of precautions. The proportions of human, animal and plant life 
had been worked out carefully beforehand for maximum efficiency, 
and for comfort. Now that the trip had started, the miniature 
world had to maintain its status quo or perish. 

As soon as enough of the crew were awake, Lieutenant Johnson, 
the third officer, took a group of eight out to make an inspection 
of the hydroponic tanks that lined the hull. Nobody expected much 
trouble here. Being at the outermost part of the ship, the plants 
were exposed to high "gravity." The outward pull exerted on them 
by rotation should have held their roots in place, even through the 
tearing backward thrust of the acceleration. But there was certain 
to be a large amount of minor damage, to stems and leaves and 
buds, and whatever there was would need immediate repair. In the 
ship's economy, the plants had the most vital function of all — ab- 
sorbing carbon dioxide from dead air already used by humans and 
animals, and deriving from it the nourishment that enabled their 
chlorophyl systems to release fresh oxygen for re-use in breathing. 

There was a vast area to inspect. Row upon row of tanks marched 
solidly from stem to stern of the giant ship, all around the inner 
circumference of the hull. Johnson split the group of eight into four 
teams, each with a biochemist in charge to locate and make notes 
of the extent of the damage, and an unclassified man as helper, to do 
the actual dirty work, crawling out along the catwalks to mend each 
broken stalk. 

Other squads were assigned to check the engines and control 
mechanisms, and the last two women to awake got stuck with the 



64 



WORLDS BEYOND 



booby prize — first shift in the galley. Melnick squashed their im- 
mediate protests with a stern reminder that they had hardly earned 
the right to complain; but privately the Captain was pleased at the 
way it had worked out. This first meal on board was going to have 
to be something of an occasion. A bit of ceremony always helped; 
and above all, social procedures would have to be established im- 
mediately. A speech was indicated — a speech Melnick did not want 
to have to make in the presence of all twenty-four crew members. 
As it worked out, the Four would almost certainly be kept busy 
longer than the others. If these women had not happened to wake 
up last. . . . 

The buzzing of the intercom broke into the Captain's speculations. 
"Lieutenant Johnson reporting, sir." Behind the proper, crisp man- 
ner, the young lieutenant's voice was frightened. Johnson was third 
in command, supervising the inspection of the tanks. 

"Having trouble down there?" Melnick was deliberately informal, 
knowing the men could hear over the intercom, and anxious to set 
up an immediate feeling of unity among the officers. 

"One of the men complaining, sir." The young lieutenant sound- 
ed more confident already. "There seems to be some objection to 
the division of the work." 

Melnick thought it over quickly and decided against any more 
public discussion on the intercom. "Stand by. I'll be right down." 

All over the ship airducts and companionways led from the inner- 
level living quarters "down" to the outer level of tanks; Melnick 
took the steps three at a time and reached the trouble zone within 
seconds after the conversation ended. 

"Who's the trouble-maker here?" 

"Kennedy — on assignment with Petty Officer Giorgio for plant 
maintenance." 

"You have a complaint?" Melnick asked the swarthy, dungareed 
man whose face bore a look of sullen dissatisfaction. 

"Yeah." The man's voice was deliberately insolent. The others 
had never heard him speak that way before, and he seemed to gain 
confidence from the shocked surprise they displayed. "I thought I 
was supposed to be a pampered darling this trip. How come I do 
all the dirty work here, and Georgie gets to keep so clean?" 



SURVIVAL SHIP 



65 



His humor was too heavy to be effective. "Captain's orders, that's 
why," Melnick snapped. "Everybody has to work double time till 
things are squared away. If you don't like the job here, I can fix 
you up fine in the brig. Don't worry about your soft quarters. You'll 
get 'em later and plenty of 'em. It's going to be a long trip, and 
don't forget it." The Captain pointed significantly to the chronometer 
built into the overhead. "But it's not much longer to dinner. You'd 
better get back to work if you want to hit the chow while it's hot. 
Mess call in thirty minutes." 

Melnick took a chance and turned abruptly away, terminating the 
interview. It worked. Sullen but defeated, Kennedy hoisted himself 
back up on the catwalk, and then began crawling out to the spot 
Giorgio pointed out. Not daring to express their relief, lieutenant 
and captain exchanged one swift look of triumph, before Melnick 
walked wordlessly off. 

In the big control room that would be mess hall, social hall, and 
general meeting place for all of them for fifteen years to come — or 
twice that time if Sirius' planet turned out to be uninhabitable — the 
Captain waited for the crew members to finish their checkup as- 
signments. Slowly they gathered in the lounge, ignoring the up- 
holstered benches around the sides and the waiting table in the 
center, standing instead in small awkward groups. An undercur- 
rent of excitement ran through them all, evoking deadly silences 
and erupting in bursts of too-noisy conversation, destroying the joint 
attempt at an illusion of nonchalance. They all knew — or hoped 
they knew — what the subject of the Captain's first speech would 
be, and behind the facade of bronzed faces and trimly-muscled 
bodies they were all curious, even a little afraid. 

Finally there were twenty of them in the room, and the Captain 
rose and rapped for order. 

"I suppose," Melnick began, "you will all want to know our 
present position, and the results of the checkup." Nineteen heads 
turned as one, startled and disappointed at the opening. "However," 
the Captain continued, smiling at the change of expressions the 
single word brought, "I imagine you're all as hungry and . . . er . . . 
impatient as I am, so I shall put off the more routine portions of 
my report until our other comrades have joined us. There is only 



WORLDS BEYOND 



one matter which should properly be discussed immediately." 

Everyone in the room was acutely conscious of the Four. They 
had all known, of course, how it would be. But on Earth there had 
always been other, ordinary men around to make them less aware 
of it. Now the general effort to maintain an air of artificial ease 
and disinterest was entirely abandoned, as the Captain plunged into 
the subject most on everyone's mind. 

"Our ship is called the Survival. You all know why. Back on 
Earth, people think they know why, too; they think it's because of 
our plants and artificial gravity, and the hundreds of other engineer- 
ing miracles that keep us going. Of course, they also know that our 
crew is mixed, and that our population is therefore . . ." The Cap- 
tain paused, letting an anticipatory titter circle the room. ". . . is 
therefore by no means fixed. What they don't know, naturally, is 
the division of sexes in the crew. 

"You're all aware of the reason for the secrecy. You know that 
our organization is in direct opposition to the Ethical Principles on 
which the Peace was established after World War IV. And you 
know how the planners of this trip had to struggle with the authori- 
ties to get this project approved. When consent was granted, finally, 
it was only because the highest prelates clearly understood that the 
conditions of our small universe were in every way different from 
those on Earth . . . and that the division proposed was necessary 
for survival." 

The Captain paused, waiting for the last words to sink in, and 
studying the attitudes of the group. Even now, after a year's con- 
ditioning to counteract Earthly mores, there were some present 
who listened to this public discussion of dangerous and intimate 
matters with flushed faces and embarrassed smiles. 

"You all realize, of course, that this consent was based, finally, 
on the Basic Principle itself." Automatically, out of long habit un- 
broken by that year's intensive training, the Captain made the sign 
of the Olive Branch. "Survival of the race is the first duty of every 
Ethical man and woman." The command was intoned meaningfully, 
almost pontifically, and brought its reward as confusion cleared from 
some of the flushed faces. "What we are doing, our way of life now, 
has the full approval of the authorities. We must never forget that. 



SURVIVAL SHIP 



67 



"On Earth, survival of the race is best served by the increasing 
strength of family ties. It was not thought wise to endanger those 
ties by letting the general public become aware of our — unorthodox 
— system here on board. A general understanding, on Earth, of the 
true meaning of the phrase, "The Twenty and the Four," could only 
have aroused a furor of discussion and argument that would, in 
the end, have impeded survival both there and here. 

"The knowledge that there are twenty of one sex on board, and 
only four of the other — that children will be born outside of normal 
family groups, and raised jointly — I need not tell you how disas- 
trous that would have been." Melnick paused, raising a hand to 
dispel the muttering in the room. 

"I wanted to let you know, before the Four arrive, that I have 
made some plans which I hope will carry us through the initial period 
in which difficulties might well arise. Later, when the groups of 
six — five of us, and one of them in each — have been assigned then- 
permanent quarters, I think it will be possible, in fact necessary, 
to allow a greater amount of autonomy within those groups. But 
for the time being, I have arranged a — shall we call it a dating 
schedule?" Again, the Captain paused, waiting for tension to re- 
lieve itself in laughter. "I have arranged dates for all of you with 
each of them during convenient free periods over the next month. 
Perhaps at the end of that time, we will be able to choose groups; 
perhaps it will take longer. Maternity schedules, of course, will not 
be started until I am certain that the grouping is satisfactory to all. 
For the time being, remember this — 

"We are not only more numerous than they, but we are stronger 
and, in our social placement here, more fortunate. We must be- 
come accustomed to the fact that they are our responsibility. It is 
because we are hardier, longer-lived, less susceptible to pain and 
illness, better able to withstand, mentally, the difficulties of a life 
of monotony, that we were placed as we are — and not alone be- 
cause we are the bearers of children." 

Over the sober silence of the crew, the Captain's voice rang out. 
"Lieutenant Johnson," Melnick called to the golden-haired, sun- 
tanned woman near the door, "will you call the men in from the 
tank-rooms now? They can finish their work after dinner." 




Morad was the best servant a man — or a demon — could want! 

Yes, he's a fine little chap, although I say it. That's a photo I took 
of him when I was home on leave. But we very nearly lost him 
before he was a year old, in a way I hate to think about. 

In those days we had a most excellent fellah servant, named 
Morad, as good as a devoted servant can be. Before my marriage 
he had knocked about the desert with me for several years, cooking 
and "doing for" me under all sorts of difficult conditions. He was a 
sunny-narured fellow, always good-tempered, even with his natural 
antipathies, the Bedawin. I don't know whether it was that trait 
which endeared him to me most, or the alacrity with which he used 
to jump to any order I gave him. When I had need of him in camp 
I would stick my head out of the tent and bellow "Morad!" As he 
usually had a primus stove roaring in the little cooking tent down- 
wind, I developed a shout like that of a boatswain brought up in an 
endless typhoon. He would as like as not be immersed in some deli- 
cate culinary operation which could not be left at that very instant, 
and to show that I had got his attention he would use the familiar 
Egyptian reply on such an occasion — "Naam." Its meaning is some- 
where between "Aye, aye," and "Ready and willing," and "Sir, to 
you." Then as soon as he possibly could he would come tumbling 
out of his little tent, stand to attention at the door of mine, and re- 
peat "Naam" with great gusto. It's a tremendously broad "a," a 
sound demanding a wide-open mouth for its full enunciation. Did I 

Reprinted by permission of the author and Longmans Green, Ltd. 

68 



"NAAM" 



69 



say that Morad was a fine big chap, with the great strong heavy 
head you often get on a fellah? His complexion was decidedly dark 
for an Egyptian's — a dash of negro blood coming somewhere; he 
had an immense benevolent grin, and I tell you it was a real pleasure 
to see his cheery face opening to that "Naam" so that his glorious 
strong teeth and pink tongue showed up startlingly bright against his 
dusky skin. 

When I married we settled down for a couple of years in a little 
bungalow on the edge of the desert near a village called Kafr el 
Azraq. I was running a paint factory, where we treated crude ocher 
brought down out of the hills. I should have the happiest memories 
of the place if it hadn't been for this business I am going to tell you 
about. Like every other house in Egypt, where it is possible, our 
house faced north. Sitting on the verandah you had on your right a 
long pinkish scarp which caught the most wonderful hues from the 
setting sun, and on your left the luscious green of the Nile Valley, 
backed by another line of austere desert hills. 

Although keeping a house clean to the satisfaction of a woman 
was a very different affair from "doing for" a bachelor in the desert, 
Morad adapted himself admirably. He became cook-general, with a 
small boy to help him. He took a local bint to wife, and they lived 
in a little stone house in Kafr el Azraq. When our baby son was born 
— which meant more work for Morad one way or another — he went 
about radiating joy. "Mabrouk; el hamdilillah! Now, by God, there 
is no shame in the house!" he said again and again. He became al- 
most fatuously devoted to that baby. He could hardly be deterred 
from picking him up and fondling him whenever he saw him. We 
used to shudder to think how Morad would spoil his own children. 

Rather an unpleasant thing happened one morning not long be- 
fore our baby was born. I was at the paint-works; Morad was away 
in the balad finding something for our dinner. My wife did not mind 
,being alone. Not a soul for miles round would have hurt her. It is 
not difficult in Egypt to acquire a reputation for medical skill; suc- 
cess in a few cases of sore eyes and septic wounds had secured her 
the respect and immunity from petty annoyances with which the 
East endows a doctor. Both men and women used to come to her, 
and after a while used to tell her bits of village gossip. So when 



70 



WORLDS BEYOND 



she saw a decrepit figure wavering up the garden path she took it for 
another patient. He wore the salmon-colored head-band which over 
much of the East declares its wearer's preoccupation with religious 
matters. His bundle of ragged clothing stood out shaggily like the 
feathers of a kite. He leaned on an olive-wood staff. When he came 
near she saw that his face was long and foxy, not at all Egyptian. 
For his evident age his eyes were remarkably alive and piercing. He 
spoke an Arabic of which she could understand but little — I think 
now that it was probably Mesopotamian — but she made out that he 
was on a pilgrimage of some kind, and was hungry and thirsty. In 
the pleasant idiom of Egypt she invited him to -itfaddel — to "do a 
kindness" — by coming in to eat. She took him into the kitchen, 
which was a little shack separated from the bungalow, and got him 
bread and onions. He made grateful noises and squatted down in 
the kitchen while she returned to the house. 

Shortly afterwards she heard a fearful explosion of curses from 
the kitchen, Morad's voice roaring objurgations and the old man 
screaming with fury. She rushed out in time to see Morad forcibly 
ejecting the pilgrim with contumely from his kitchen. She stopped 
the manhandling and began to remonstrate with Morad. For so 
genial a person he was in a state of anger altogether without prece- 
dent. Eventually, from the flood of indignant speech she was able 
to make out that Morad, on returning from market, had found the 
pilgrim spitting ritually after his meal on the spotless kitchen floor 
and declaring himself by signs patent to Morad as a dog of a Shiah. 
We had never suspected Morad of extreme piety, although he kept 
Ramadan, and it was a revelation to hear the virulence with which 
he denounced all the dirt-eating sons of pimps who belonged to the 
Shiah heresy. It was another example of the explosive potentialities 
of a Muslim where religion is concerned. 

The old man did not take his remarks altogether lying down. He 
waited till he got outside the garden and then loosed off a fearful 
tirade. Apparently his heterodoxy supplied him with a number of 
curses quite strange to Morad. With malevolence shaking his entire 
body the old pilgrim pronounced a most complicated anathema. My 
wife understood hardly anything of it. She thought she caught the 
word "moOn" once or twice, and "hyena" seemed to recur. Turning 



"NAAM 



71 



to ask Morad what it all meant, she found to her surprise that he 
now seemed more frightened than angry. The old man brought his 
spirited remarks to a conclusion and stumped away up the desert 
edge. We never saw him again. Neither then nor afterwards would 
Morad interpret the tirade. All he could be induced to say was that 
it was kalam wihish (bad talk), and he hated having the subject men- 
tioned. 

I suppose it would be about a fortnight after this that we heard 
the laugh of a hyena not far away in the desert. It was nothing very 
surprising. We knew there were some in the hills, where the lime- 
stone formation provided plenty of suitable lairs. We had found a 
regular runway once, but I had not fancied following it into the 
depths of the black and evil-smelling caves. In the daytime the 
hyena would probably have been at home, and although they have 
the reputation of being quite as cowardly as jackals in the open, I 
had always heard that they were nasty customers in a corner. Any- 
way, the hunting instinct was not strong in us. We had no particular 
desire to kill a hyena. The Bedawin hate them because they snap up 
their stray goats. Round Kafr el Azraq they did not trouble the fella- 
heen much, beyond getting at any of their relatives who were not 
buried deep enough. Novelists are fond of talking about "mirthless 
laughter." That is a correct description of a hyena's. The sound goes 
"ho-ho-Ao-ho," with a howl running through it. However, as I say, it 
was nothing strange to us, though we did remark that it was un- 
usually close to the bungalow. It was practically full moon, which 
stimulates all nocturnal animals to noisiness beyond the ordinary. 
At that time the dogs of an Egyptian village are never silent all night 
through, and the jackals hold special choral festivals. 

It might be about a month or two afterwards that we began to 
hear — my wife through her patients, and I through my workmen — 
that a hyena was making himself rather a nuisance in the village. 
Several losses of goats and sheep were attributed to him, but funnily 
enough they seemed to occur only when the moon was big. What is 
more, the depredator seemed to be an unusually bold and crafty 
beast. On one occasion the village people averred that he had taken 
a goat which had been shut up for the night in a mud-walled shed 
with the door properly latched. I asked them if they thought the 



72 



WORLDS BEYOND 



hyena was an. afreet, who could move latches like a son of Adam. 
They took me quite seriously. They said they didn't know. He might 
very well be an afreet. So I went along to see the tracks for myself. 
Most of them had been obliterated by the feet of the inquisitive 
crowd which had pressed round the scene of the goat's disappear- 
ance. I did find one big round pug. I thought it might have been 
made by an exceptionally hefty pi-dog; but, pi-dog or hyena, the 
abstraction of that goat was equally mysterious — always provided 
that the door really had been latched. 

It would be about this time that Morad's wife came to mine in 
some trouble. As she was the respectable wife of a respectable man I 
had never been privileged to see her face, only her rather pleasant girl- 
ish-looking form swathed from head to heels in her long black robe. 
The ostensible reason for her coming was to get dawa for her eyes. 
My wife thought her real object was to talk about Morad. She was 
deeply troubled by his absence from home at night. There would be 
spells of a week at a time when he would refuse to go to bed, and 
after a period of restless pacing in their little house he would go 
out and stay away till dawn. Returning dog-tired from these excur- 
sions he would sleep heavily for the short time which remained be- 
fore his wife roused him to come to work at the bungalow. Talking 
it over together, my wife and I remembered that there had been oc- 
casions lately when Morad had seemed lackadaisical and overtired. 
He certainly wasn't so good at turning up in the mornings as in our 
desert days, but I had attributed that to the counter-attractions of 
married life. Next time he came in I took a good look at him. It 
was quite true; his eyes were tired and his solid self-confident face 
was almost drawn. His eyes didn't look quite that way, but I won- 
dered if he had been getting into bad company and taking to hashish. 
His indignant denial when I mentioned it rang unmistakably true. I 
tried to make out if he had anything on his mind, but all he would 
say was: "Ma feesh haga. There is nothing." 

Then something happened which converted the hyena from a mere 
annoyance into a menace. A ten-year-old boy who had stayed out 
after nightfall trying to find a strayed sheep never came home at all. 
The fellaheen are perfectly useless in a case like this, so I sent for an 
old Bedawi tracker. He found the small boy's , trail coming along the 



"NAAM" 



73 



edge of the cultivation and parallel with it a hyena's. He showed me 
where the poor little devil had started running. Where the two trails 
met there was a spot of blood; and then the hyena's spoor turned up 
towards the hiils, with the big pugs of his forefeet plainer and deeper 
than before. We lost the track in the end in a perfect maze of hyena 
runs at the entrance of a range of caves. 

I decided that the best chance of getting the brute was to lie up 
for him in the village. I didn't tell a soul except the omda what I 
was going to do; I didn't want the whole population scuttling about 
and peeping round corners, and generally making the village as un- 
inviting for the hyena as it could possibly be. The omda's house 
provided exactly what I wanted. It had a courtyard surrounded by a 
high mud wall and overlooked by an upper-floor verandah. The en- 
trance from the village street could be closed by a good strong gate, 
with a bar dropping across it inside. My plan was to leave the gate 
open and tether a kid in the courtyard. Then I would have a man 
lying on the top of the wall by the entrance to slam the gate to with 
a string and then drop the bar into place while remaining in safety 
himself. I must emphasize that I wasn't an experienced shot and I 
didn't fancy my shooting by moonlight. I preferred to have more than 
one chance at that hyena. For my helper I got a lad I could trust 
from the factory. He was what is called a gadda, a bit of a sport. 
He certainly played his part all right, but the hyena didn't play his. 

Somewhere about nine o'clock in the evening I walked across to 
the village and took up my post. It was broad, blazing moon- 
light, such as you get only in the sub- tropics. The courtyard was 
cut in two diagonally, half in the dense black shadow cast by the 
building and the other half so brightly lit that I could see the feet 
of a littie owl on the opposite coping. When I started my vigil, 
people had not settled down properly for the night. There were still 
murmurs of talk; somewhere one of those little drums of hide and 
'baked clay was being thumped in syncopated rhythm; over the wall 
the pungent, invisible smoke of dung fires came stealing. Gradually 
all human signs of life came to an end. Only the dogs barked in- 
terminably and the kid bleated dutifully for its mother. The moon 
turned the dingy mud walls to a semblance of fine stone. I was get- 
ting cold. It can be jolly cold on those brilliantly clear nights at the 



74 



WORLDS BEYOND 



beginning of the year. I was getting drowsy. I wondered if my gate- 
keeper had kept awake; he was lying perfectly still. It was ten past 
one. Any use waiting any more? Then I heard the hyena give 
tongue outside the village. 

Perhaps a quarter of an hour later a hideous flat head was pushed 
cautiously round the corner. I always think the hyena has the mean- 
est, most lowering, most brutal face in the animal world. There is 
that great broad forehead that looks as hard as a paving-stone, and 
under it the avid, ugly features are crowded into as small a space as 
possible. Its heavy-shouldered, goose-rumped body followed quickly, 
and it began to slouch across to the terrified kid. At that instant my 
admirable gadda slammed the door and dropped the bar with a 
ratde. Of course I ought to have fired at once. But, as I said, I am 
no hunter. I was so interested in my first sight of a wild hyena that 
for a moment I forgot what I was there for. As it was, I never got a 
shot in. The hyena whirled round in its tracks. At once it found 
itself face to face with a shut and barred door. Moonlight plays 
strange tricks, but I could have sworn before any court that that 
hyena lifted the bar with its paw and opened the gate. Before I 
could pull myself together and get rifle to shoulder it was gone. 

My gadda was a broken man. He was quite sure now that the 
hyena was an afreet and that it had bewitched me. Goggling with 
superstitious terror, he insisted on spending that night in a room in 
the omda's house with two other men. I don't know what he said in 
the village, but the hyena's stock went sky-high. A perfect reign of 
terror set in. People went into their houses at sunset and refused 
to unbar for anything. As a matter of fact, for the next three weeks 
nothing happened. 

It was nearly full moon again when the moawin of police at the 
markaz headquarters had occasion to send a ghaffir on a donkey with 
a message to the omda of our village. If he had been a local man 
he would, I am sure, have been in too much of a funk to continue 
his journey after sunset. As it was, he rode along with his old snider 
on his shoulder, singing at intervals as a matter of habitual pre- 
caution to keep the afreets away. He told me afterwards that he first 
suspected he was being shadowed at a place where the path was 
flanked on both sides by fields of sugar-cane. The canes made a 



'NAAM" 



75 



thicket eight feet high, and something heavy was pushing through 
them pace by pace with him. At first he thought it might be a buffalo 
calf, which its owner had neglected to drive home for the night. But 
when the path came out on a naked canal bank he saw it was a 
hyena. Even then he wasn't frightened. Who ever heard of a hyena 
attacking an armed man on a donkey? The donkey had other views. 
He bolted; and then, to his horror, the ghaffir found that the hyena 
was chasing them. As he couldn't stop the terrified donkey he 
couldn't use his gun. The hyena is not fast, but his lope is as dogged 
as his bite. The end came quite close to our bungalow. Apparently 
the worn-out donkey put his foot in a hole and went down with a 
crash. Almost at once the hyena was upon them. Sitting in the 
bungalow we heard a sudden outburst of shouts and screams and a 
horrible snarling. I got my revolver and dashed out. As it hap- 
pened, I was just in time to save the ghaffir's life; he was weeks in 
hospital as it was. The hyena made off when I started firing at him. 
Judging from the blood and hair on the gun-butt the beast had not 
had it all quite his own way, but the man's neck and chest were fear- 
fully torn about. 

That, happening practically at the bottom of our garden, made us 
feel rather apprehensive. We decided to do what we had never done 
before — lock up the bungalow at night. We arranged that Morad 
was to lock the door leading out towards the kitchen and take away 
the key with him, so that he could let himself in early in the morn- 
ing. It was a couple of days before we could actually put that ar- 
rangement into force, because Morad did not turn up. His wife 
came to say that he was sick at home, but she was so miserable and 
disturbed in her manner that my wife was sure there was something 
very wrong. When Morad did appear, two days after the ghaffir 
business, his head was all swathed in bandages and he looked very 
rotten indeed. He said that on his way home that night he had been 
' set upon and belabored with sticks by two men he did not know. 
We simply did not believe him. We were convinced that something 
was being concealed from us. Again the suspicion came to us that 
he must be mixed up in some nefarious business. The old bright 
Morad was almost unrecognizable. He seemed as anxious as ever to 
please us, but the alacrity had gone out of him. As of old, he still 



76 



WORLDS BEYOND 



gave us his wide-mouthed "Naam"; now no smile accompanied it. 
He looked and moved like a harassed and worn-out man. We both 
tried to make him tell us his troubles or go into Cairo to see a doctor. 
We offered to pay the expenses. But no, no, no. 

Then full moon came round again. The village people were more 
terror-stricken than ever now, and I don't mind admitting that we 
ourselves were prepared to feel happier when the brightest moonlight, 
which always seemed to be the period of that beastly hyena's activity, 
should be past. We were locking up very carefully at night now. 
One of us always saw to it that Morad had locked the back door. 
We had the baby in a cot in our room. Perhaps our fears may seem 
unwarranted, but that hyena, which went out of its way to attack 
men and could open barred gates, was getting on our nerves. I 
slept with my revolver under my pillow. A candlestick with a shade 
stood on a little table by our bed. 

After feeding the baby at ten o'clock and setding him down again 
we neither of us went to sleep very quickly. In fact I did not know 
I had gone off till I suddenly found myself awake and staring at a 
broad flood of moonlight which had spread silently into the room 
since my last look round. I wondered what had awakened me. Then 
I smelt a taint on the air. Familiar. Animal. Caves. Hell! Hyena! 

Like a flash I turned and slipped the revolver from under my pil- 
low. At the same moment something stirred in the black dark under 
the slant of moonlight and our baby uttered a sleepy cry. My heart 
gave a terrible jump and settled down to pound so that it shook my 
whole body. I could hear my wife breathing in hissing gasps. Perhaps 
that suspense lasted a couple of seconds. God, what seconds! Then 
the baby cried again. This time the sound did not come from the 
cot, and simultaneously something declared itself in the moonlight. 
In that white radiance the broad forehead showed up like a skull. 
In the hyena's jaws, gripped by a mouthful of clothing, was a bundle, 
which was our son. The hyena faced me full, so that with the baby 
across its chest its entire body was covered. I dared not fire. It knew. 
My flesh crept at the realization. It knew. It was backing slowly 
towards the open bedroom door behind it, facing me steadily, and I 
should never get a chance of an effective shot. 



"NAAM" 



77 



There ought to be a pause of about a century here, for that's what 
it seemed like. That cursed, crafty withdrawal held me powerless. 
If I had fired at the smooth, impenetrable forehead or leapt out of 
bed the brute might have shifted his grip, and that would have been 
the end of our son. As the hyena neared the door its head came in 
line with the candlestick. For an instant the conical candle-shade, 
dark against the patch of moonlight, appeared as if balanced on the 
brute's head, like a fantastic tarboush. Tarboush? Tarboush? A 
blinding inspiration struck me. I shouted "Morad!" sharply, as I 
had done ten thousand times before. The hyena stiffened, and opened 
its mouth so that I could see its teeth and tongue. The baby dropped 
onto the rug and in that instant I fired. 

I found afterwards that one of the shots must have been immedi- 
ately fatal; it had got him in the eye. 

No, Morad did not turn up next morning; but we found the back 
door standing ajar, with the key in it. We were most awfully sorry 
for the wife, poor soul. Our baby was quite unhurt, thanks to his 
voluminous clothes. 

Has it ever struck you as strange that the belief in were-animals 
should be so widespread? They've their were-wolf in Scandinavia, 
loup-garou in France, were-leopard in West Africa. I used to know 
what I thought about that fearsome fauna. Now I don't. 



After the Atom, What? 

» Science-fiction accounts of the atomic destruction of the 
Earth may come true some day — but it would take a powerful 
lot of doing with atomic bombs available today. The latest 
estimate — an official one of the Atomic Energy Commission, 
which should know — says that the number of blasts necessary 
would be 775,000. Current world supply totals, by an insider's 
guess, 190, including 175 U.S., 15 U.S.S.R. 

Probably a better possibility for total destruction is radio- 
active dust, being produced in large quantities as a by-product 
of atomic bomb production and research. Secrecy is rigid in 
this area, but a recent authoritative estimate runs like this — 
enough radioactive fission products are coming from the Han- 
ford plant every month to contaminate 144 square miles. 




by Cleve Cartmill 



THE 




This warning will do you no good: if you meet her, 
ifs already too late! 

The main reason that Brad Lawrence knew almost nothing about 
cats was that his wife Leta had an allergy to cat fur. She came out 
all over bumps whenever she got near a cat. 

But there was one fact Brad knew about cats: they are not green. 

So when he saw this cat on the university parking lot, he stopped 
to stare. It was a large animal, as cats go, and was mostly an apple 
green in color, striped geometrically with a darker green. This darker 
color, a kind of willow-tree green, was repeated on its feet, so that 
it seemed to be wearing perfectly fitted boots, and on its ears. 

Since he knew so little about cats, he didn't feel a sense of shock 
at the appearance of the cat's ears. The fact that they were leaf- 
shaped didn't register. For all he knew, all cats had ears shaped 
somewhat like eucalyptus leaves. 

His scrutiny lasted perhaps ten seconds. Then the cat, which had 
been staring idly at a new Cadillac, turned her head and saw Brad. 
She had yellow-green eyes, and she fixed them on Brad's with an 
intensity that would have struck him as peculiar if he had had 
more experience with cats. 

Then she walked daintily over to him and he picked her up. With 
his books under one arm and the cat cradled in the other, he carried 
her to his car. He set her on the running board, and when he opened 
his car door she leaped lightly inside and sat under the steering wheel. 

Brad stood motionless for a few moments, vague confusion blur- 
ring his thoughts, and the cat put both front paws on the wheel. 



78 



THE GREEN CAT 



79 



"You'll have to move over," Brad said. The cat moved over. 

Brad got in and drove out of the parking lot. The cat watched all 
his movements — pressing the starter button, shifting, turning the 
wheel — with rapt attention. 

"It's sure funny," Brad remarked presently as he moved along in 
the center stream of traffic. "I wonder why I picked you up." He 
signaled a left turn. "I wonder why you let me." He made the turn; 
the cat watched. "I wonder., what Leta will say. Sure is funny." 

He stopped at a market to fill a grocery list that Leta had made 
for him in the morning, and was not surprised when the cat followed 
him inside. She stayed one pace behind and a little to one side as 
he cruised the aisles for baby food, flour, bread and so on. 

He paused before a shelf of cat food, selected a brand with a liver 
base. Then he selected two more cans. "Better have plenty," he 
explained to the green cat, who watched him attentively with her 
chartreuse eyes. 

"What a beautiful cat!" the pretty clerk said as she cash-registered 
Brad's items. "Follows you just like a dog. Did you train him to do 

that?" 

"She learned it herself," Brad said. 
"I never saw a green cat before." 
"Very rare," Brad said vaguely. 

"Gee. Why don't you put her in the cat show next week? 1 bet 
she'd win a prize." 

"Might do that," Brad said. "I didn't know about it. Where is it 
and when?" 

She got the information from the local paper, and Brad absently 
took the paper along. The green cat showed no interest now in Brad's 
driving. She looked at traffic, trees and people. She waited expect- 
antly when he stopped in front of his home — a G.I.-loan bungalow — 
and gathered his parcels. She followed him to the pseudo-Spanish 
. front door. 

Brad looked down at her dubiously. "I don't know whether you 
better . . ." He frowned. "What with the baby and all . . . Oh, well, 
let's see what happens." 

"That you?" his wife called from the baby's room. 

"Yeah." Brad went into the tiled kitchen, trimmed in Spanish 



80 



WORLDS BEYOND 



reds and smelling deliciously of the chili which bubbled on the electric 
range. The cat followed, examining everything. 

Brad returned to the living room and sat in the big chair beside 
the television set. He looked at the cat, sitting at his feet, with a 
feeling of slight uneasiness. He felt as if there were something 
sinister in the situation, but couldn't put -a name to it. He realized 
that he had acted with almost no volition of his own ever since he 
had seen the cat. It was as if she had assumed command, but he 
couldn't see how that was possible. 

Leta came down the hallway leading their year-old daughter, 
Candy, who was blue-eyed and blonde like her parents. Leta stopped 
when she saw the cat, her eyes widening in what Brad took for 
frightened amazement. 

The cat turned her yellow-green eyes on Leta's for an intense five 
seconds, and Leta's expression returned to normal. 

"I didn't know cats were ever green," she said. "It's beautiful. 
But — " She looked around in confusion, as if trying to recall what 
she had been about to say. "Maybe it'll be nice for Candy," she said 
finally. 

The cat now came over to Candy and examined her. The cat's 
eyes were almost on a level with the child's. Candy pulled her pink 
fist out of her mother's hand and lurched against the cat. She put 
one arm around the cat's neck, and the two stared solemnly into 
each other's eyes. 

"Boggle," Candy said. She went with the cat down the hallway 
to her playroom, and cat and child disappeared from view. 

"Guess the cat has a name now," Brad said. "Boggle." 

"I think it'll be nice," Leta said, "having someone to keep an eye 
on the baby. Where did you get her?" 

Brad told about the encounter on the parking lot. "Sure is funny," 
he said. 

"Gosh," Leta exclaimed. "No bumps." She exhibited her shapely 
arm, pulling the sleeve of her Spanish blouse up to her shoulder. "I 
always break out around cats." 

Brad came over to look. "Sure is funny," he said. "Say, I wonder 
. . . Suppose it's all right for the baby in there alone with Boggle?" 

"Oh, sure," said his wife. "But we can take a look." 



THE GREEN CAT 



81 



They tiptoed along the hallway and peeked into the playroom. 
Candy was just adding the final piece to a complex Ferris wheel 
made from her Tinker Toy set. The box was open in the middle of 
the floor, and the illustrated book of instructions was beside the 
Ferris wheel. Candy put in the last piece, regarded the book briefly, 
nodded to Boggle and spun the wheel. It turned easily, and Candy 
made a sound of pleasure. 

"Say, how did that get there?" Leta cried. "It was on the top shelf 
of the cupboard." 

The top shelf was some six feet from the floor. A chair stood in 
the open cupboard door. Brad put these facts together in his mind 
and shook his head. 

"You must be mistaken," he said. "She couldn't reach it, even 
if she could climb up on the chair. You must have got that set down 
and built that thing for her. She couldn't possibly build anything 
that complicated." 

"But — I didn't," Leta protested. 

Candy turned at the sound of voices, gurgled, grinned and then 
began to take the Ferris wheel apart and put the pieces in the box. 

"I wish you could talk," Brad said to Candy. "This has got me 
worried." 

"Pooh," Leta scoffed. "Let's go." She led the way. 

Brad sat in the big chair again and scowled at the floor. He was 
now objective for the first time since he had seen the green cat. 
"Something's wrong," he said positively. 

"How do you mean?" 

"Nothing adds up. I bring a cat home. Cats are ruled out in the 
first place, on account of your allergy. But you don't have an allergy 
to this cat, which has a funny color, anyway. Then this cat . . . 
Candy — I don't know what I'm trying to say." 

"Well, you're making no sense," Leta said. "Oh, the chili," she 
said, and went to the kitchen. 

Brad continued to scowl, but didn't arrive at any conclusion. He 
only felt that something in the picture was out of focus. 

How had Candy put that toy together? And why hadn't he in- 
vestigated further? Why, for that matter, had he picked the cat up 
to begin with? 



82 



WORLDS BEYOND 



He got up. He went to the front door. He said: "Good-by, dar- 
ling. I'm going to the library." 

Leta appeared in the kitchen doorway. "Dinner will be ready in 
fifteen minutes." 

"Dinner," Brad said, dismissing it. "Dinner." He went out to his 
car. 

He found a book about cats. He learned that there were Abyssin- 
ian, Burmese, Persian, Siamese and alley cats, ranging in color from 
red to blue-grey, but there wasn't a single, solitary green cat in the 
lot. 

He went home. He found his wife unconscious on the living-room 
floor. He found his daughter and the — his — cat watching the wrest- 
ling matches on the television set. 

He roused Leta. She prepared Candy for bed. She didn't say how 
she had become unconscious. They went to bed, leaving the green 
cat to roam the house. 



The green cat left the house about midnight. She loped along side 
streets, dark streets, until she reached the hillside. 

Her leaf-like ears were erect; her nostrils filled with the scents of 
night: eucalyptus, jacaranda and jasmine. 

From one of her pouches that didn't show she took a small object 
shaped like a pencil. She pointed this at the hillside and moved it 
back and forth in a spraying motion. 

Earth fell away, fell away from a long slim object, gleaming in 
the starlight. The green cat went inside through a port that fell open 
and crept into the nose of the ship. 

On the floor was a green square. When the cat touched a button 
the square glowed. She took from one of her pouches the object 
shaped like a pencil and applied it to the glowing square. 

She wrote diligently. She made several lines of queer marks. It 
was writing, but not as we know it. Then she added, in the written 
language of Southern California: 

"It's okay. Come on in." 

Next, she went back outside. She pointed the pencil-like object 
at the little spaceship. It rose into the night, headed away from 
Earth, and the green cat began to kick dirt into the hole. 



s THE 

NEXT ; 

; * Jack Vance returns with a brilliant 

* : short novelette, BRAIN OF THE GAL- 
AXY. It has an unusual gimmick: a device which tests a sub- 
ject's capabilities by putting him— quite physically, as far as 
the subject can tell — into the bodies of men on many planets 
who are faced with difficult and dangerous situations. It's a 
drastic testing method; so drastic that you'll ask yourself what 
galactic need could possibly justify it. And Vance has the 
answer. ... 

* Lester del Rey makes his first appearance in these pages 
with THE DEADLIEST FEMALE. His premise is that the space- 
travel of the future is going to demand unusual human beings 
— human beings mutated and bred especially for the job, in 
fact. They're small and wiry, these spacemen, with no appen- 
dix, no sinuses . . . and the women among them have another 
lack, which makes for efficiency — and trouble! 

* Richard Matheson, one of the brightest young men in the 
new crop of science-fantasy writers, contributes a tongue-in- 
cheek vignette. CLOTHES MAKE THE MAN. 

* . . . and there are stories by Lord Dunsany, C. M. Kornbluth, 
H. B. Livingston and five others to complete the lineup. 

* We still want your letters, by the way. We'd like to know 
what you think of the magazine as a whole, how you liked 
each story, and what you want to see in future issues. The 
address is— 

Damon Knight, Editor 
WORLDS BEYOND 
Hillmon Periodicals, Inc. 
535 Fifth Avenue 
New York 17, N. Y. 



83 




by E. B. White 



THE SUPHEMACY 
OF URUGUAY 

A new weapon: quite bloodless, and completely irresistible! 

Fifteen years after the peace had been made at Versailles, Uruguay 
came into possession of a very fine military secret. It was an inven- 
tion, in effect so simple, in construction so cheap, that there was 
not the slightest doubt that it would enable Uruguay to subdue any 
or all of the other nations of the earth. Naturally the two or three 
statesmen who knew about it saw visions of aggrandizement; and 
although there was nothing in history to indicate that a large country 
was any happier than a small one, they were very anxious to get 
going. 

The inventor of the device was a Montevideo hotel clerk named 
Martin Casablanca. He had got the idea for the thing during the 1933 
mayoralty campaign in New York City, where he was attending a 
hotel men's convention. One November evening, shortly before elec- 
tion, he was wandering in the Broadway district and came upon a 
street rally. A platform had been erected on the marquee of one of 
the theaters, and in an interval between speeches a cold young man 

Copyright, 1939, by E, B. White. 



84 



THE SUPREMACY OF URUGUAY 



85 



in an overcoat was singing into a microphone. "Thanks," he crooned, 
"for all the lovely dee-light I found in your embrace . . ." The in- 
flection of the love words was that of a murmurous voice, but the 
volume of the amplified sound was enormous; it carried for blocks, 
deep into the ranks of the electorate. The Uruguayan paused. He 
was not unfamiliar with the delight of a love embrace, but in his ex- 
perience it had been pitched lower — more intimate, concentrated. 
This sprawling, public sound had a curious effect on him. "And 
thanks for unforgettable nights I never can replace . . ." People 
swayed against him. In the so bright corner in the too crowded press 
of bodies, the dominant and searching booming of the love singer 
struck sharp into him and he became for a few seconds, as he later 
realized, a loony man. The faces, the mask-faces, the chill air, the 
advertising lights, the steam rising from the jumbo cup of A. & P. 
Coffee high over Forty-seventh Street, these added to his enchantment 
and his unbalance. At any rate, when he left and walked away from 
Times Square and the great slimy sounds of the love embrace, this 
was the thought that was in his head: 

// it unhinged me to hear such a soft crooning sound slightly 
amplified, what might it not do to me to hear a far greater sound 
greatlier amplified? 

Mr. Casablanca stopped. "Good Christ!" he whispered to him- 
self; and his own whisper frightened him, as though it, too, had been 
amplified. 

Chucking his convention, he sailed for Uruguay the following 
afternoon. Ten months later he had perfected and turned over to his 
government a war machine unique in military history — a radio-con- 
trolled plane carrying an electric phonograph with a retractable 
streamlined horn. Casablanca had got hold of Uruguay's loudest 
tenor, and had recorded the bar of music he had heard in Times 
Square. "Thanks," screamed the tenor, "for unforgettable nights I 
never can replace . . ." Casablanca prepared to step it up a hundred 
and fifty thousand times, and grooved the record so it would repeat 
the phrase endlessly. His theory was that a squadron of pilotless 
planes scattering this unendurable sound over foreign territories 
would immediately reduce the populace to insanity. Then Uruguay, 



86 



WORLDS BEYOND 



at her leisure, could send in her armies, subdue the idiots, and annex 
the land. It was a most engaging prospect. 

The world at this time was drifting rapidly into a nationalistic 
phase. The incredible cancers of the World War had been forgotten, 
armaments were being rebuilt, hate and fear sat in every citadel. 
The Geneva gesture had been prolonged, but only by dint of remov- 
ing the seat of disarmament to a walled city on a neutral island and 
quartering the delegates in the waiting destroyers of their respective 
countries. The Congress of the United States had appropriated an- 
other hundred million dollars for her naval program; Germany had 
expelled the Jews and recast the steel of her helmets in a firmer mold; 
and the world was re-living the 1914 prologue. Uruguay waited till 
she thought the moment was at hand, and then struck. Over the 
slumbering hemispheres by night sped swift gleaming planes, and 
there fell upon all the world, except Uruguay, a sound the equal of 
which had never been heard on land or sea. 

The effect was as Casablanca had predicted. In forty-eight hours 
the peoples were hopelessly mad, ravaged by an ineradicable noise, 
ears shattered, minds unseated. No defence had been possible be- 
cause the minute anyone came within range of the sound, he lost his 
sanity and, being daft, proved ineffectual in a military way. After 
the planes had passed over, life went on much as before, except that 
it was more secure, sanity being gone. No one could hear anything 
except the noise in his own head. At the actual moment when people 
had been smitten with the noise, there had been, of course, some 
rather amusing incidents. A lady in West Philadelphia happened to 
be talking to her butcher on the phone. "Thanks," she had just said, 
"for taking back that tough steak yesterday. And thanks," she added, 
as the plane passed over, "for unforgettable nights I never can re- 
place." Linotype operators in composing-rooms chopped off in the 
middle of sentences, like the one who was setting a story about an 
admiral in San Pedro: 

I am tremendously grateful to all the ladies of San Pedro for the 
wonderful hospitality they have shown the men of the fleet during 
our recent maneuvers and thanks for unforgettable nights I never 
can replace and thanks for unforgettable nights I nev 



THE SUPREMACY OF URUGUAY 



87 



To all appearances Uruguay's conquest of the earth was complete. 
There remained, of course, the formal occupation by her armed 
forces. That her troops, being in possession of all their faculties, 
could establish her supremacy among idiots, she never for a moment 
doubted. She assumed that with nothing but lunacy to combat, the 
occupation would be mildly stimulating and enjoyable. She supposed 
her crazy foes would do a few rather funny, grotesque things with 
their battleships and their tanks, and then surrender. What she failed 
to anticipate was that her foes, being mad, had no intention of mak- 
ing war at all. The occupation proved bloodless and singularly un- 
impressive. A detachment of her troops landed in New York, for 
example, and took up quarters in the RKO Building, which was fairly 
empty at the time; and they were no more conspicuous around town 
than the Knights of Pythias. One of her battleships steamed for 
England, and the commanding officer grew so enraged when no 
hostile ship came out to engage him that he sent a wireless (which of 
course nobody in England heard) : "Come on out, you yellow-bellied 
rats!" 

It was the same story everywhere. Uruguay's supremacy was 
never challenged by her silly subjects, and she was very little no- 
ticed. Territorially her conquest was magnificent; politically it was 
a fiasco. The peoples of the world paid slight attention to the Uru- 
guayans, and the Uruguayans, for their part, were bored by many of 
their territorials — in particular by the Lithuanians, whom they 
couldn't stand. Everywhere crazy people lived happily as chil- 
dren, in their heads the old refrain: "And thanks for unforgettable 
nights . . ." Billions dwelt contentedly in a fool's paradise. The 
earth was bountiful and there was peace and plenty. Uruguay 
gazed at her vast domain and saw the whole incident lacked au- 
thenticity. 

It wasn't till years later, when the descendants of some early 
American idiots grew up and regained their senses, that there was 
a wholesale return of sanity to the world, land and sea forces were 
restored to fighting strength, and the avenging struggle was begun 
which eventually involved all the races of the earth, crushed Uru- 
guay, and destroyed mankind without a trace. 



by Katherine MacLean 




The FITTEST 

Man is the most adaptable animal, the fittest to survive 
that we know; but there's one vital quality he lacks. . . . 

Among the effects of Terry Shay was found a faded snapshot. It 
is a scene of desolation, a wasteland of sand and rock made vague 
by blowing dust, and to one side huddle some dim figures. They 
might be Eskimos with their hoods pulled close, or they might be 
small brown bears. 

It is the only record left of the great event, the event which came 
into the hands of Terry Shay. 

Like all great events it started with trivial things. 

A tiny item in the Agriculture budget caught the hawklike eye of a 
senator. He stood up. "Item, $ 1 ,200 over estimate for automatic con- 
trols of space rocket, see appropriation estimate 108, Department of 
Extreme Conditions, Human-Plant ecology, cultural viability liaison 
to UNESCO and F.A.O. of U.N." He looked up, smiling a deadly 
smile. "I don't understand much of this gobbledegook, but I know 
what the word rocket means. Will somebody please explain to me 
what qualifies the Department of Agriculture to waste our money 
shooting off rockets?" 

A Department of Agriculture man arose, riffled through folders 
and read aloud the statement of the director who had requested the 
rocket. This caused further difficulties, for the language was tech- 



88 



THE FITTEST 



nical, and nobody understood it. On the second reading they man- 
aged to catch the word Venus. 

Venus! Headlines in eight chains of papers carried the senator's 
unkind request that the committee of investigation include a psy- 
chiatrist. The ninth chain showed the initiative of a more alert re- 
porter by carrying an interview with the director of the Department 
of Extreme Conditions. 

It was a small, elaborate rocket, no more than twenty feet long. 
Doctor of Botany Ernest P. Crofts was somewhat impatient of lay- 
men but he showed it to the reporter proudly, gesturing at it with a 
test tube of some odd greenish stuff in his hand. When asked what 
was in the tube he became indignant. 

"But I told you already. Haven't you read any of my articles in 
the Journal of Paleontology? Or Jabson's letters in the Survey of 
Botanical Sciences? . . . NO? Well you must at least have heard of 
the new Smith-Ellington theory of atmospheric dynamics — No? 
My stars! What do people read? Doesn't anyone follow the debates? 
What do they think the rocket is for?" 

The reporter informed him that they did not know what the 
rocket was for, and Crofts pulled himself together to explain. 

There had been a long curiosity and debate among paleontologists 
and astronomers because spectroscopes had shown that the atmos- 
phere of Venus was carbon dioxide, proving that there was no plant 
life on Venus, for plants convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. Venus 
was a desert. Yet it was supposed to be the sister planet of Earth, 
and the point of strangeness in the comparison was not the strange- 
ness of Venus, for its atmosphere was chemically logical — it was 
the strangeness of Earth. Why did the Earth have air of free breath- 
able oxygen? Why was there so much water? Could plants alone 
have worked the change, or did it require an initial oddity? The 
paleontologists argued bitterly. 

Doctor Crofts believed that microorganisms and plants alone had 
changed Earth, and he was ready to prove his belief by sending a 
rocket to Venus, and spraying it with a collection of molds and 
slimes and lichens specially bred to the old conditions. If his test 
worked, then some day, when space liners were available for in- 



90 



WORLDS BEYOND 



expensive migration to Venus, that dry poisonous place would be 
green and moist with plants, and the air sweet and fit to breathe. 

Congress cared little for paleontology, but it could see the ad- 
vantage of transforming a million acres of wasteland into good 
salable real estate. The bill passed with little discussion. 

Venus was slowly approaching its nearest point to Earth, and the 
finishing touches were being put on the rocket. 

Terry Shay was the top reporter of the Humanist press, and he 
was always ready to catch the government in some bureaucratic in- 
justice or inhumanity. Even high officials of the government, who 
usually had hard words for ignorant prying busybodies, feared and 
respected the byline of Terry Shay and knew that the public interest 
stood behind him. 

For a crusader it is hard to distinguish between genuine concern 
for the welfare of the people, and the need to make the readers read 
and the circulation grow; and perhaps Terry Shay was beginning to 
forget that there was a difference. 

When the letter came he opened it, and then sat for a while hold- 
ing it in his hand and thinking of circulation figures and the rich 
white light of publicity. 

The letter was from the A.S.P.C.A. and it pointed out that Venus 
might possibly have animal life adapted to its own conditions, and 
to change those conditions could therefore come under the heading 
of cruelty and slow torture and murder of animals. 

He read it over and laughed. 

"What is it?" asked Patty, his secretary. 

"The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals 
and the British Humane Society want to take out an injunction 
against the Venus seed rocket. They want me to help." He laughed 
again. "I think I will." 

She was puzzled. "But what have they against the Venus rocket? 
What harm could it do any animal?" 

He explained, grinning. "There might be natives on Venus." 

She was startled by the idea but still puzzled. 

"On Venus? How could they breathe? What would they eat? 
That's not very likely, is it, Terry?" 



THE FITTEST 



91 



He grinned more widely. "No, but nobody has been there to see. 
There is a reasonable doubt, enough to rock those bureaucrats back 
on their heels with an injunction. They should have thought of the 
possibility. They should be more careful of who their damned 
lumbering machine is likely to run over next." 

He got his publicity. There was a great quarrel among experts, 
overflowing onto the radio, television, and all the public papers. 
While they were arguing the injunction went through, restraining 
Dr. Crofts from sending the seeds. . . . 

Patty's motives are not known. They may have included some 
dream of a desert being grown over by trumpet vines and lilac 
bushes and birds and running streams. She may have been angry 
with Terry for some reason of her own. 

He came in from a radio speech and found a clipping on his desk. 
It stated that Anton Gottlieb of the American and German Rocket 
Societies had finished a new spaceship to add to the fleet of five 
now prospecting the asteroid belt. Gottlieb stated that the new de- 
sign was so economical of weight that it was theoretically capable 
even of landing and taking off again from a medium-sized planet 
without refueling. Under the clipping was a note from Patty. 

"Why don't you go to Venus and see for yourself?" the note said. 
"Think of the publicity!" It is impossible to say what would have 
been the tone of her voice if she had said it, but it sounded like a 
dare to Terry Shay. 

The next night he went on the air to tell the world that he was 
going to Venus. 

The country was interested; they had argued enough, now they 
wanted an answer. They passed the hat to raise the fortune that 
was needed to buy the spaceship for him, and they placed side bets 
with each other on what he would find on Venus. 

While the collection of money went on, Terry turned up at the 
proving grounds to consult the designer. 

"Why not?" said Gottlieb, spreading his hands and shrugging. 
"If crazy people want to go to Venus, I will convert the ship for 
Venus. It will only need a little change in fins, there, and a stronger 
tripod, there, so, and — " He paused and considered the spaceship 
meditatively, a light of speculation growing in his eyes. 



92 



WORLDS BEYOND 



"This search, it will make the test more dangerous, yes?" 
"Yes." 

"You land, maybe, and take off again?" He was growing ex- 
cited with some idea of his own. 
"Yes." 

"Good! Then I will go with you." He beamed. 

Terry considered having "Papa" Gottlieb as a companion and 
stifled a grin. "But what of your responsibilities, Mr. Gottlieb?" 

Gottlieb looked harassed. "That's what Minna says. Always she 
wants me to stay on the ground. Always she says, think of the 
children — I think of the children, their father a designer who has 
not the faith to test his own ships! No, this time I go!" 

In the archives of the newspapers of the time one can find photo- 
graphs of the Department of Agriculture man nervously shaking 
hands with the two before the takeoff, and wishing them well in a 
stilted memorized speech. In most of the photographs,' Dr. Crofts 
and Anton Gustav Gottlieb seem embarrassed by the cameras and 
crowds, and Terry Shay is smiling and eager to go, but in one pic- 
ture Terry Shay has already climbed into the ship and Dr. Crofts 
is handing Gottlieb a symbolic going-away present. It is a package 
of morning glory seeds, the caption says, and they are both smiling 
wryly. 

After they had been through the first acceleration and picked up 
extra fuel at the moon, Gottlieb took time for Terry's instruction. 
Gottlieb was of the opinion that non-engineers were backward chil- 
dren and halfwits, but he kept to his task, sometimes despairing, 
but always inexhaustibly patient, and succeeded in drilling Terry 
in the care and handling of spaceships and giving him some rudi- 
ments of navigation. Terry came to know "Papa" Gottlieb very 
well, and tried to turn the tables on him by discussing politics. Gott- 
lieb usually evaded the subject with a good natured "Ach!" of de- 
spair. 

Once he said, "Did I ever tell you I did not like people?" 
"No." Terry smiled; the statement was ludicrous. Gottlieb ob- 
viously liked everybody. 



THE FITTEST 



93 



"I don't like people. They are very silly,"' said Gottlieb soberly. 
"I was in five concentration camps. They were all alike." He 
touched the scars on his neck. "What good is politics, Terry?" 

When Terry began trying to explain, Gottlieb interrupted with a 
long interminable story about the baby sayings of his youngest 
daughter, and pulled out his wallet to show him her picture. He 
carried pictures of all bis children and was always ready to talk 
about them, but this time it came to Terry that the round-faced 
little engineer had deliberately changed the subject, so he left it at 
that. 

Venus was coming very close, a great dark globe showing a nar- 
row ribbon of sunlight around one side. 

"Maybe there is life," Gottlieb said. Terry was not prepared for 
what came next. "What puzzles me is why you want to save these 
Venusians. Why do you want to, Terry?" 

The full ruthless implications of that sank in slowly. Terry turned 
from the viewplate with a feeling of shock. "If I don't, they will die," 
he pointed out carefully, as if to a child. 

The chubby engineer laughed. "If the amoebas had worried about 
that, we would still be amoebas. Only the fittest should survive. 
Differential breeding. How else can we have a better race, eh? Pro- 
gress is built on death." 

"You talk like a fascist," Terry pointed out, quietly, as he would 
have pointed out that Anton Gustav Gottlieb had leprosy. The litde 
engineer merely looked at him soberly and picked up a book. 

Terry mastered himself and thereafter avoided political topics and 
the subject of saving Venusians, painfully aware of the danger of 
making the trip intolerable with quarrels. He mentioned it just once 
again as they watched Venus turning under its eternal blanket of 
dust storms. "Give them a break," he said. "They have as much 
right to live as we do." 

Gottlieb said dreamingly, "Life belongs to the future." They 
looked at each other for a moment of pure antagonism. 

"It belongs to nothing!" Terry snapped, and then they went into 
the dust cloud of Venus and were too busy to talk. 

Dusty wind, rocks, high-piled flowing dust dunes, weirdly scoured 



94 



WORLDS BEYOND 



mountains, black vitreous chimneys of forgotten volcanoes, sudden 
torrential rains that condensed in the stratosphere and then evapor- 
ated again before they reached the ground, heavier rains that reached 
the ground and scoured gullies in the dust without wetting it, and 
left the gullies to be filled again with dust in one sweep of wind, 
and over it all heat, a dry constant heat of 120 degrees. They were 
the first humans on Venus. 
Terry forgot his temper. 

They flew back and forth over the weirdly beautiful, sterile land- 
scape, combing for signs of life and arguing cheerfully on which 
formula for a locus of chemical imbalance should be used first. The 
temperature was too stable and the light too dim for a radiation 
imbalance. They decided on the geologic formula and began to take 
soundings at likely ridges. 

At the end of the second day, when tempers were wearing thin 
and eyes were beginning to blur with the strain, they found a hollow 
section in a water-bearing ridge, found its open end, put on space- 
suits to give them air and keep them cool, and went in. 

It was there. 

First it was merely a crevice with sand and fine dust drifted in to 
make a level floor, but there were footprints. Then there were furry 
cublike creatures who fled before them, leaving the sand heaps of 
play fortresses and tunnels, and a trail of small footprints. And 
there was an aura about the place — a mood. 

They turned on their helmet lights and walked onward, listening 
to distant shrill squeaks at the edge of audibility. "They have a 
double sight system, maybe," Gottlieb said, stooping slightly as the 
cleft smoothed to a small rough corridor. "Light and sound. Sound 
is for seeing in the dark. They are smaller than people," he added 
absently, stooping lower as his helmet brushed the ceiling, but the 
deduction did not seem important, for they would see them soon 
and tell them all about Earth. Terry found himself thinking of as- 
tonishing tales to tell them about Earth. 

"They are very friendly," he said gratefully. He had never felt 
this form of telepathy before, a communion of feeling instead of 
thoughts, but it was astonishing how right it seemed, like coming 
home to a family after being with strangers. 



THE FITTEST 



95 



"Like relatives, thought sharing with one another," Gottlieb mut- 
tered. "Useful," then again, "Good!" as he passed an intersection 
of tunnels with bracing that showed a keen understanding of struc- 
tural principles. The work was done in stone, with only a few 
touches of some soft metal, gold or silver, that needed no smelting. 

Presently the two Earthmen came upon them working in the 
depth of the mine, channeling and conserving a faint trickle of 
water. The leader-one stopped work for a moment to come forward 
and greet them. His fur was not exactly fur, but something more 
like brown velvet, but otherwise he was very like a small brown 
bear. He looked at them with intelligent, interested brown eyes, and 
after hesitating a moment took their extended hands and shook 
them, and returned to work. Th#y fell to and helped. 

"Evolved from a water-digging animal," said Gottlieb. "Probably 
a water-fueled metabolism. Carbon from the air and energy from 
the temperature differential of evaporation. This air is dry." 

He paused, holding a long flat slab of rock. The leader-one spoke 
a few words of precise direction, interested by the clumsiness of the 
strangers. 

"I beg your pardon," Gottlieb said gently, smiling. "I don't un- 
derstand you, Mr. Teddy Bear." The native made a gesture of apol- 
ogy and pointed. Gottlieb placed the slab carefully where indicated. 
"They have a language," he said simply. It showed that the telepathy 
needed some supplement. It was as vague to the community of bears 
as it was to the Earthmen. Terry and Gottlieb worked on for a 
while, and then sat down and leaned against a wall to relax, with 
their lights off. They could hear the natives working steadily, tap- 
ping and grinding, and sometimes lighting the dark for themselves 
with a supersonic beep. 

"We'll have to go back for more oxygen cylinders soon," Terry 
said. 

"Yes," said Gottlieb. 

They walked back up the long corridors to the outside and the 
ship. "Just like brown bears," Terry said warmly. "I always liked 
those brown bears that mooch candy bars and popcorn in the parks. 
I'd like to take some of these back and introduce them around to 
the guys." 



96 



WORLDS BEYOND 



"Oxygen would be death to them," warned Gottlieb. "They will 
need technology and spacesuits. Their science is backward because 
of the rock, not because of too little thinking. What use is thinking 
without fire, wood, or hard metal? What can intelligence do with 
nothing to work with but rock? One needs tools!" 

"Let's take them some," said Terry. "This is one native minority 
in history that is going to get a fair break." 

The first trip, they took with them a double armload of empty 
plastic food cans for the natives to use as water containers. Then 
Gottlieb stayed behind to watch their use and learn a few words of 
their language, his face beaming and excited behind his faceplate. 
Terry returned on the second trip with Gottlieb's tool kit and some 
plastic wall plates from the storeroom bulkhead. "It's cooling," he 
reported. "Pretty soon we can start." 

The leader-native began to understand vaguely that the blow- 
torch was some sort of a tool. He touched and lifted the oddly 
shaped, beautifully worked object which was so strangely not stone, 
and not dust, and not gold, and he hooted at it supersonically to 
see it better, then looked up skeptically at the Earthmen. It could 
not be a tool. It was not a wedge, and not a hammer, but he hoped 
with great yearning that it would be a tool. 

Amused, Terry watched his play of expressions. "Let's show him," 
he suggested. 

They decided to build a cistern, with piped water. 

Water dripped with tinkles and splashes into the carefully built 
inadequate rock of the natives' storage pool. Before turning the 
blowtorch on, Gottlieb warned the natives away with a gesture. 
"Different metabolism — heat radiation might be very dangerous to 
them." 

The cluster of small brown bears felt his anxiety and obediently 
trotted off up the corridor to a safe distance, while the two Earth- 
men set to work in their heavy spacesuits to build an airtight cistern. 

When they had finished the natives came and looked, and then 
as if by prearrangement drew off up the corridor again, leaving two 
behind. 

One of the two who was left tugged at the blowtorch in Gottlieb's 
hand, looking up earnestly at his face. 



THE FITTEST 



97 



"He wants me to show him how to use it," Gottlieb said, still 
worried. 

"Go ahead," Terry said, amused. "He knows what he's doing." 

The volunteer's motions seemed unsteady, but he mimicked Gott- 
lieb's demonstration efficiently enough. The engineer handed him 
the blowtorch and showed him how to turn it on. The other native 
stood to one side making a steady supersonic note, and watching. 

The volunteer turned on the blowtorch without clumsiness, start- 
ed faintly as the thin blue flame tongued out, skillfully smoothed the 
rough unfinished plastic corner for three minutes while they watched, 
then died and fell into the storage pool. 

The blowtorch clanged down and flared on the floor, and Gottlieb 
reached it and turned it off before it did any more damage. 

The group of friendly sober little bears came forward again. 
First there was the next-most-expendable, who had stood close to the 
experiment and beeped to give a side lighting of sound to what hap- 
pened and measure the range of the deadly effect by being close. 
Then there came the main group which had stood around the bend 
of a corridor and watched by the distorted reflection of sound, and 
last there was the leader who had gone some distance away up a 
side corridor, out of reach of any possible danger. The logical pat- 
tern of the arrangement was clear. 

It was rather horrible to Terry, for he understood how ready they 
had been. 

They were thumping the chest of the one who had stood close, 
and gabbling questions at him. Gottlieb and Terry drew together, 
watching silently. 

"Why do they have to be so damned cheerful about it?" Terry 
demanded. 

Gotdieb was calm. "It is a good death, dying for the future. They 
must have hoped they could use the blowtorch. They know they 
need tools. He would not have had such a chance usually." 

"A chance to be killed, you mean?" Terry asked sarcastically, 
watching as two teddy bears picked the body up from the shallow 
water of the storage pool and casually carted it away. There was 
no doubt that he was dead. Even the two Earthmen had felt the 
flash of pain that preceded the dark. "Fine chance!" 



98 



WORLDS BEYOND 



"A chance to be useful," Gottlieb protested, hurt. "He was weak. 
Probably he was sick and that was why they chose him." 

"Chose him!" Terry felt sick. The whole business began strange- 
ly to seem like an extension of his argument with Gottlieb, with 
the teddy bears unfairly taking Gottlieb's side. He stepped forward 
and gripped the shoulder of the leader, and turned him around, 
speaking directly at the large intelligent eyes. 

"You're a sort of adviser to this bunch. Do you mean to say 
that you chose two who were sick to be killed, while you went and 
hid yourselves?" 

The native's eyes widened in the universal sign of puzzlement, 
and he let out an involuntary supersonic beep, unconsciously trying 
to make out a dim meaning by sonic reflection. Terry felt the gulf 
of misunderstanding between them. He shook the furry body gently, 
trying to convey his meaning. "But that was murder," he said. "That 
was cowardice; sending someone else to take the danger!" 

Gottlieb laid a hand on his arm. "Please, Terry. You are not 
fair to him. He is a superior type, with better genes. He must be 
careful of himself." 

Terry felt the familiar rage rising in him and tried to check it in 
a mental pause, making his mind blank. In the brief silence came 
a feeling of peace. The natives were going back to work, but they 
were disturbed by the disturbance of his feelings and trying to soothe 
him as they would soothe a fretful child, wanting him to feel that — 
everything was all right, everything was all right, single deaths, in- 
dividual hurts cannot matter to life in the long run, everything was 
the way it should be — It was like a lullaby, a song of reassurance 
and strength, the enfolding protecting arms of time and fate — 

"They are hellish persuasive," said Terry. Gottlieb was tugging 
at his arm. 

"We must go back now and make ready for the return. Come on, 
Terry." 

They went back through the long corridors, leaving their heavy 
alien footprints in the fine overtracked sand, and the children scat- 
tered excitedly back from the entrance as they reached it, then drew 
m again to watch them work. After a time the leader and some of 
the other adults came shyly out of the caves to help. 



THE FITTEST 



"Remember what I told you," remonstrated Gottlieb's voice in 
Terry's earphones. 

"You didn't waste those lessons." Terry grinned, looking around 
the storage compartment, and understanding its construction from 
remembered lessons. He had emptied it of the surplus emergency 
equipment, and now he began dismantling a fuel compartment, strip- 
ping its surplus weight from the spaceship for the return trip. He 
unbolted a heavy plate, slid it to a hatch door and looked down 
before throwing it out. 

There was nothing in sight but the usual barren drifting sand and 
the comically foreshortened figure of Anton Gustav Gottlieb below 
and to one side, happily pow-wowing with a gang of small, square, 
interested teddy bears. 

Terry grinned and released the wide metal plate. As it slid from 
his hands a sudden dusty gust of wind slewed it in the direction 
of the group. It looked as if it would fall too close. 

"Look out!" he called. The plate sliced through the air, turning 
at an angle directly toward the leader-native. 

"Look out!" Only Gottlieb could hear the call in his earphones, 
only Gottlieb looked up and saw the whole thing. There was no 
time for the engineer to do anything. It was too late to reach the 
native. 

Very clearly, as in a nightmare, Terry saw the foreshortened 
spacesuited figure step deliberately into the path of the plate, and 
try to catch it with his hands. The sound of impact came clearly, 
first through his earphones, then like an echo a fractional instant 
later through the air, sounding very far away. Terry took a deep 
breath and went for a first aid kit. 

As he reached the ground and passed through the ring of natives 
towards the still figure in the spacesuit he could hear Gottlieb whis- 
pering something. 

Hoping for word of what to do, Terry bent closer, tuning up his 
earphones, listening. 

"Survival of the fittest — the fittest — the fittest," whispered Anton 
Gustav Gottlieb, and died. 

Terry touched his shoulder, but there was no sound of breathing, 
and a swirl of dust came and settled on the glass of the faceplate. 



100 



WORLDS BEYOND 



He understood suddenly. 

"Papa" Gottlieb. He had not been very smart in some things. 
His table manners may not have been perfect, but he was a man. 
He had seen some hard things and he had not liked the way life was 
lived on Earth; he had wanted to have it done better, and he didn't 
care by whom ... by men, or by calm, enduring, intelligent teddy 
bears. . . . 

"You damned fool." Terry raised his face to the dusty sky and 
tried not to think for a while. 

It was easy. Soothing thoughts came from somewhere . . . that 
there were many other people left on Earth, many to be friends if 
one only came to know them — many to spare — no great loss — we all 
die eventually — no matter — no reason for shock — everything nor- 
mal — everything all right. 

Terry choked and looked around at the concerned ring of small 
brown bears. "Everything is not all right, dammit!" 

They said nothing, but they were contradicting him with their 
calm and strength and certainty of the future — the long future and 
the stars which he knew about and they could not yet foresee. . . . 

" — the fittest — " he said wildly. The leader-one climbed up on 
Gottlieb's chest, and peered worriedly into Terry's face with brown 
intelligent eyes. His ears were flattened back to his head to keep 
out the dust, and he looked almost like a man. 

"Oh no," Terry said determinedly, backing, seeing what Gottlieb 
had seen. "You don't fight, do you. You wouldn't have any wars — 
would you." His shoulders touched the ship's ladder and he reached 
into his knapsack and brought out something. It was the packet of 
morning glory seeds. Slowly he tore the envelope open and scattered 
the seeds into the dusty wind, then climbed up into the ship, sat at 
the controls and lifted her up for Earth. 

Terry Shay never told. 

You won't find it in the histories, but it is written among the 
great lost choices. ... It could have been different. It might have 
been a partnership. 

But it might not. 



THE DISSECTING TABLE 

Criticism of current science-jantasy books 

THE VOYAGE OF THE SPACE BEAGLE, by A. E. van Vogt; 
Simon & Schuster, $2.50. MASTERS OF TIME, by A. E. van 
Vogt; Fantasy Press, $3.00. 

As those who read last issue's review of The House That Stood 
Still may have inferred, this department's thesis on van Vogt is 

(a) that the man has a very respectable talent as a writer, and 

(b) that he consistently misuses it. 

The present two volumes offer valuable supporting evidence, for 
Voyage of the Space Beagle consists largely of van Vogt's earliest 
work, two novelettes originally titled Black Destroyer and Discord 
In Scarlet; while the two stories in Masters of Time, the title story, 
originally called Recruiting Station, and Changeling, represent his 
later period. 

Both Black Destroyer and Discord In Scarlet deal with extra- 
terrestrial beings encountered by an exploratory spaceship from 
Earth. In each case, the beast concerned is highly intelligent and 
powerful, is the last of his race, and is motivated by the urgent neces- 
sity to capture the Earth ship and use it to reach a habitable planet 
where it can reproduce and eventually re-conquer the galaxy. As 
menaces, the black cat-creature and the four-armed red humanoid 
are vivid and convincing; the stories of their attacks on the ship and 
its crew are straightforward, logical, intensely exciting. 

In contrast, the third episode written to fill out the book (it deals 
with a race of avian, asexual fellaheen who hypnotize all of the crew 
except the "Nexialisf'-trained hero, making them fight among them- 
selves) is disconnected and confused to such an extent that the 
reader will be lucky if he can follow the action from one step to 
the next, let alone organize them into a coherent whole. The fourth, 
dealing with an intelligent galaxy, is simply dull. 

The contrast is even plainer in Masters of Time. Changeling deals 
with van Vogt's favorite theme: the superman who doesn't know 



101 



102 



WORLDS BEYOND 



he's a superman. The plot is complex, involving two power groups, 
one of which is not identified until late in the story; the action ex- 
pands wildly in all directions, and, as usual, is resolved abruptly 
in the last two pages by means of a rabbit previously contained in 
Mr. van Vogt's hat. Recruiting Station concerns two normal people 
caught up in the vast, cloudy machinations of two warring groups 
in the future; here again scenes shift abruptly, basic elements of the 
story are kept hidden till the end and then unsatisfactorily explained; 
and as an added attraction van Vogt has introduced a string of un- 
resolved time paradoxes. 

Van Vogt's method, according to himself, is to work in 800-word 
"blocks", each of which introduces a new idea. This packing tech- 
nique is undeniably a major contribution to science-fantasy writ- 
ing; in the hands of at least one other writer, Charles L. Harness, 
it produces scripts of unparalleled brilliance and impact. But in the 
innovator's own work the effect is simply that of a senseless bom- 
bardment, which might well be labeled "the Kitchen Sink Tech- 
nique." The essential difference is that a Harness story, in spite of 
its internal complexity, has an over-all shape which is coherent and 
symmetrical; the typical van Vogt product is formless. 

FIRST LENSMAN, by E. E. Smith; Fantasy Press, $3.00. 

Dr. Smith, whose first story, The Skylark of Space, appeared twen- 
ty-odd years ago, is the leading figure of the now-extinct "bigness" 
school in science-fiction. His conflicts take place over interstellar 
distances at the least; he has never written a merely interplanetary 
story. He works on a big canvas; 300,000 words barely suffice him 
to complete a story to his own satisfaction. A reader new to this 
field will probably be appalled and overwhelmed by the multiplicity 
of world-shaking gadgets, and the casual treatment of incredible dis- 
tances and speeds; and he may find the characterization and dia- 
logue too old-fashioned for his taste. But for the genuine science- 
fiction fanatic, a Smith story is a feast. 

Dr. Smith's men are bigger and more virile than life; his women 
are more womanly, his villains the perfect incarnation of villainy. 
There is absolutely no point in trying to describe his plot or its re- 
lation to other stories in the series; that's a job to grey the hair of 



THE DISSECTING TABLE 



103 



a synopsis! with three pages to fill in eight-point type. If you're new 
to science-fantasy, don't bother with this book; if you're an old-time 
reader, don't miss it 

BIG BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION, edited by Groff Conklin; 
Crown Publishers, $3.00. 

Groff Conklin's third anthology in this series is his best. For one 
thing, unlike the magazine which until recently bore the same title, 
it is a big book — 545 pages, 32 stories, most of them first-rate 
science-fantasy. For another, Mr. Conklin has drawn heavily in this 
volume on recent magazine fiction, and the result is a polish which 
neither of the previous collections quite attains. 

COSMIC ENGINEERS, by Clifford D. Simak; Gnome Press, 
$2.50. 

Clifford Simak is an able craftsman who has been working in this 
field since the early '30s. He has produced many notable short 
stories and a few excellent longer works; his "City" series cries for 
hard-cover publication. But this pot-boiler, written for magazine 
publication more' than ten years ago, should have been left interred. 
It follows the basic structure used at one time or another by every 
desperate commercial writer in the field: one or two normal Earth- 
men of the present day are recruited by a tremendously advanced 
civilization, either in the far future or across a great distance in 
space, to help repel some variety of invasion. So stated — and it is 
fairly stated — this proposition is patent idiocy, and Simak has been 
no more successful than most in his attempt to make it sound reason- 
able. The plot has the further handicap of an internal structure 
suspiciously reminiscent of a children's story: to get milk from 
Bossy Cow, you have to get her some tall grass from Dan Donkey's 
patch, and to get the grass you have to get him some water from 
Grouchy Grouper's personal pond, and to get the water . . . 

To complete the slaughter, the story has been placed, for no evi- 
dent reason, in the 70th century a.d.; yet all the characters talk, 
think and act exactly like middle-class, middle-intellect 1930 Ameri- 
cans — including one who is revived in the second chapter from a 
thousand-year sleep. D. K. 



by Rudyard Kipling 




A MATTER DF FACT 

"Some six or seven feet above the port bulwarks hung a 
Face. It was not human, and it certainly was not animal, 
for it did not belong to this earth as known to man. . , ." 

And if ye doubt the tale 1 tell, 
Steer through the South Pacific swell; 
Go where the branching coral hives 
Unending strife of endless lives, 
Where, leagued about the 'wildered boat, 
The rainbow jellies fill and float; 
And, lilting where the laver lingers, 
The starfish trips on all her fingers; 
Where, 'neath his myriad spines ashock, 
The sea-egg ripples down the rock; 
An orange wonder dimly guessed, 
From darkness where the cuttles rest, 
Moored o'er the darker deeps that hide 
The blind white Sea-snake and his bride; 
Who, drowsing, nose the long-lost ships 
Let down through darkness to their lips. 

—The Palms. 

Once a priest always a priest; once a Mason always a Mason; but 
once a journalist always and forever a journalist. 

There were three of us, all newspaper men, the only passengers on 
a little tramp steamer that ran where her owners told her to go. She 
had once been in the Bilbao iron ore business, had been lent to the 
Spanish Government for service at Manila; and was ending her days 
in the Cape Town coolie-trade, with occasional trips to Madagascar 



104 



A MATTER OF FACT 



105 



and even as far as England. We found her going to Southampton in 
ballast, and shipped in her because the fares were nominal. There 
was Keller, of an American paper, on his way back to the States 
from palace executions in Madagascar; there was a burly half Dutch- 
man, called Zuyland, who owned and edited a paper up country 
near Johannesburg; and there was myself, who had solemnly put 
away all journalism, vowing to forget that I had ever known the 
difference between an imprint and a stereo advertisement. 

Three minutes after Keller spoke to me, as the Rathmines cleared- 
Cape Town, I had forgotten the aloofness I desired to feign, and was 
in heated discussion on the immorality of expanding telegrams be- 
yond a certain fixed point. Then Zuyland came out of his stateroom, 
and we were all at home instantly, because we were men of the same 
profession needing no introduction. We annexed the boat formally, 
broke open the passengers' bathroom door — on the Manila lines the 
Dons do not wash — cleaned out the orange-peel and cigar-ends at 
the bottom of the bath, hired a Lascar to shave us throughout the 
voyage, and then asked each other's names. 

Three ordinary men would have quarreled through sheer boredom 
before they reached Southampton. We, by virtue of our craft, were 
anything but ordinary men. A large percentage of the tales of the 
world, the thirty-nine that cannot be told to ladies and the one that 
can, are common property coming of a common stock. We told 
them all, as a matter of form, with all their local and specific variants 
which are surprising. Then came, in the intervals of steady card- 
play, more personal histories of adventure and things seen and re- 
ported; panic among white folk, when the blind terror ran from man 
to man on the Brooklyn Bridge, and the people crushed each other 
to death they knew not why; fires, and faces that opened and shut 
their mouths horribly at red-hot window-frames; wrecks in frost 
and snow, reported from the sleet-sheathed rescue tug at the risk of 
frostbite; long rides after diamond thieves; skirmishes on the veldt 
and in municipal committees with the Boers; glimpses of lazy, 
tangled Cape politics and the mule-rule in the Transvaal; card- tales, 
horse-tales, woman-tales by the score and the half hundred; till the 
first mate, who had seen more than us all put together, but lacked 
words to clothe his tales with, sat open-mouthed far into the dawn. 



106 WORLDS BEYOND 

When the tales were done we picked up cards till a curious hand 
or a chance remark made one or other of us say, "That reminds me 
of a man who — or a. business which — " and the anecdotes would 
continue while the Rathmines kicked her way northward through the 
warm water. 

In the morning of one specially warm night we three were sitting 
immediately in front of the wheelhouse where an old Swedish boat- 
swain whom we called "Frithiof the Dane" was at the wheel pre- 
tending that he could not hear our stories. Once or twice Frithiof 
spun the spokes curiously, and Keller lifted his head from a long 
chair to ask, "What is it? Can't you get any pull on her?" 

"There is a feel in the water," said Frithiof, "that I cannot under- 
stand. I think that we run downhills or somethings. She steers bad 
this morning." 

Nobody seems to know the laws that govern the pulse of the big 
waters. Sometimes even a landsman can tell that the solid ocean is 
a-tilt, and that the ship is working herself up a long unseen slope; 
and sometimes the captain says, when neither full steam nor fair wind 
justify the length of a day's run, that the ship is sagging downhill; 
but how these ups and downs come about has not yet been settled 
authoritatively. 

"No, it is a following sea," said Frithiof; "and with a following 
sea you shall not get good steerage way." 

The sea was as smooth as a duck-pond, except for a regular oily 
swell. As I looked over the side to see where it might be following 
us from, the sun rose in a perfectly clear sky and struck the water 
with its light so sharply that it seemed as though the sea should 
clang like a burnished gong. The wake of the screw and the little 
white streak cut by the log-line hanging over the stern were the only 
marks on the water as far as eye could reach. 

Keller rolled out of his chair and went aft to get a pineapple from 
the ripening stock that were hung inside the after awning. 

"Frithiof, the log-line has got tired of swimming. It's coming 
home," he drawled. 

"What?" said Frithiof, his voice jumping several octaves. 

"Coming home," Keller repeated, leaning over the stern. I ran 



A MATTER OF FACT 



107 



to his side and saw the log-line, which till then had been drawn tense 
over the stern railing, slacken, loop, and come up off the port quar- 
ter. Frithiof called up the speaking-tube to the bridge, and the bridge 
answered, "Yes, nine knots." Then Frithiof spoke again, and the 
answer was, "What do you want of the skipper?" and Frithiof bel- 
lowed, "Call him up." 

By this time Zuyland, Keller, and myself had caught something 
of Frithiof's excitement, for any emotion on shipboard is most con- 
tagious. The captain ran out of his cabin, spoke to Frithiof, looked 
at the log-line, jumped on the bridge, and in a minute we felt the 
steamer swing round as Frithiof turned her. 

"Going back to Cape Town?" said Keller. 

Frithiof did not answer, but tore away at the wheel. Then he 
beckoned us three to help, and we held the wheel down till the 
Rathmines answered it, and we found ourselves looking into the 
white of our own wake, with the still oily sea tearing past our bows, 
though we were not going more than half steam ahead. 

The captain stretched out his arm from the bridge and shouted. 
A minute later I would have given a great deal to have shouted too, 
for one-half of the sea seemed to shoulder itself above the other half, 
and came on in the shape of a hill. There was neither crest, comb 
nor curl-over to it; nothing but black water with little waves chasing 
each other about the flanks. I saw it stream past and on a level with 
the Rathmines' bow-plates before the steamer made up her mind to 
rise, and I argued that this would be the last of all earthly voyages 
for me. Then we rose for ever and ever and ever, till I heard Keller 
saying in my ear, "The bowels of the deep, good Lord!" and the 
Rathmines stood poised, her screw racing and drumming on the slope 
of a hollow that stretched downwards for a good half-mile. 

We went down that hollow, nose under for the most part, and the 
air smelt wet and muddy, like that of an emptied aquarium. There 
was a second hill to climb; I saw that much: but the water came 
aboard and carried me aft till it jammed me against the smoking- 
room door, and before I could catch breath or clear my eyes again 
we were rolling to and fro in torn water, with the scuppers pouring 
like eaves in a thunderstorm. 



108 



WORLDS BEYOND 



"There were three waves," said Keller; "and the stoke-hold's 
flooded." 

The firemen were on deck waiting, apparently, to be drowned. 
The engineer came and dragged them below, and the crew, gasping, 
began to work the clumsy Board of Trade pump. That showed noth- 
ing serious, and when I understood that the Rathmines was really 
on the water, and not beneath it, I asked what had happened. 

"The captain says it was a blow-up under the sea — a volcano," 
said Keller. 

"It hasn't warmed anything," I said. I was feeling bitterly cold, 
and cold was almost unknown in those waters. I went below to 
change my clothes, and when I came up everything was wiped out 
by clinging white fog. 

"Are there going to be any more surprises?" said Keller to the 
captain. 

"I don't know. Be thankful you're alive, gentlemen. That's a tidal 
wave thrown up by a volcano. Probably the bottom of the sea has 
been lifted a few feet somewhere or other. I can't quite understand 
this cold spell. Our sea-thermometer says the surface water is 44°, 
and it should be 68° at least." 

"It's abominable," said Keller, shivering. "But hadn't you better 
attend to the foghorn? It seems to me that I heard something." 

"Heard! Good heavens!" said the captain from the bridge, "I should 
think you did." He pulled the string of our foghorn, which was a 
weak one. It sputtered and choked, because the stoke-hold was full 
of water and the fires were half-drowned, and at last gave out a moan. 
It was answered from the fog by one of the most appalling steam- 
sirens I have ever heard. Keller turned as white as I did, for the fog, 
the cold fog, was upon us, and any man may be forgiven for fearing 
the death he cannot see. 

"Give her steam there!" said the captain to the engine-room. 
"Steam for the whistle, if we have to go dead slow." 

We bellowed again, and the damp dripped off the awnings to the 
deck as we listened for the reply. It seemed to be astern this time, 
but much nearer than before. 

"The Pembroke Castle, by gum!" said Keller, and then, viciously, 
"Well, thank God, we shall sink her too." 



A MATTER OF FACT 



109 



"It's a side-wheel steamer," I whispered. "Can't you hear the 
paddles?" 

This time we whistled and roared till the steam gave out, and the 
answer nearly deafened us. There was a sound of frantic threshing 
in the water, apparently about fifty yards away, and something shot 
past in the whiteness that looked as though it were grey and red. 

"The Pembroke Castle bottom up," said Keller, who, being a jour- 
nalist, always sought for explanations. "That's the colors of a Castle 
liner. We're in for a big thing." 

"The sea is bewitched," said Frithiof from the wheelhouse. "There 
are two steamers." 

Another siren sounded on our bow, and the little steamer rolled 
in the wash of something that had passed unseen. 

"We're evidently in the middle of a fleet," said Keller quietly. "If 
one doesn't run us down, the other will. Phew! What in creation is 
that?" 

I sniffed for there was a poisonous rank smell in the cold air — a 
smell that I had smelt before. 

"If I was on land I should say that it was an alligator. It smells 
like musk," I answered. 

"Not ten thousand alligators could make that smell," said Zuy- 
land; "I have smelt them." 

"Bewitched! Bewitched!" said Frithiof. "The sea she is turned 
upside down, and we are walking along the bottom." 

Again the Rathmines rolled in the wash of some unseen ship, and 
a silver-grey wave broke over the bow, leaving on the deck a sheet 
of sediment — the grey broth that has its place in the fathomless deeps 
of the sea. A sprinkling of the wave fell on my face, and it was so 
cold that it stung as boiling water stings. The dead and most un- 
touched deep water of the sea had been heaved to the top by the 
submarine volcano — the chill, still water that kills all life and smells 
of desolation and emptiness. We did not need either the blinding 
fog or that indescribable smell of musk to make us unhappy — we were 
shivering with cold and wretchedness where we stood. 

"The hot air on the cold water makes this fog," said the captain. 
"It ought to clear in a little time," 



110 



WORLDS BEYOND 



"Whistle, oh! whistle, and let's get out of it," said Keller. 

The captain whistled again, and far and far astern the invisible 
twin steam-sirens answered us. Their blasting shriek grew louder, 
till at last it seemed to tear out of the fog just above our quarter, 
and I cowered while the Rathmines plunged bows-under on a double 
swell that crossed. 

"No more," said Frithiof, "it is not good any more. Let us get 
away, in the name of God." 

"Now if a torpedo-boat with a City of Paris siren went mad and 
broke her moorings and hired a friend to help her, it's just conceiv- 
able that we might be carried as we are now. Otherwise this thing 
is—" 

The last words died on Keller's lips, his eyes began to start from 
his head, and his jaw fell. Some six or seven feet above the port bul- 
warks, framed in fog, and as utterly unsupported as the full moon, 
hung a Face. It was not human, and it certainly was not animal, for 
it did not belong to this earth as known to man. The mouth was 
open, revealing a ridiculously tiny tongue — as absurd as the tongue 
of an elephant; there were tense wrinkles of white skin at the angles 
of the drawn lips; white feelers like those of a barbel sprang from 
the lower jaw, and there was no sign of teeth within the mouth. But 
the horror of the face lay in the eyes, for those were sightless — 
white, in sockets as white as scraped bone, and blind. Yet for all this 
the face, wrinkled as the mask of a lion is drawn in Assyrian sculp- 
ture, was alive with rage and terror. One long white feeler touched 
our bulwarks. Then the face disappeared with the swiftness of a 
blind worm popping into its burrow, and the next thing that I re- 
member is my own voice in my own ears, saying gravely to the main- 
mast, "But the air-bladder ought to have been forced out of its 
mouth, you know." 

Keller came up to me, ashy white. He put his hand into his 
pocket, took a cigar, bit it, dropped it, thrust his shaking thumb into 
his mouth and mumbled, "The giant gooseberry and the raining 
frogs! Gimme a light — gimme a light! I say, gimme a light!" A little 
bead of blood dropped from his thumbnail. 

I respected the motive, though the manifestation was absurd. "Stop, 
you'll bite your thumb off," I said, and Keller laughed brokenly as 



A MATTER OF FACT 



111 



he picked up his cigar. Only Zuyland, leaning over the port bul- 
warks, seemed self-possessed. He declared later that he was very sick. 

"We've seen it," he said, turning around. "That is it." 

"What?" said Keller, chewing the unlighted cigar. 

As he spoke the fog was blpwn into shreds, and we saw the sea, 
grey with mud, rolling on every side of us and empty of all life. 
Then in one spot it bubbled and became like the pot of ointment that 
the Bible speaks of. From that wide-ringed trouble a Thing came 
up — a grey and red Thing with a neck — a Thing that bellowed and 
writhed in pain. Frithiof drew in his breath and held it till the red 
letters of the ship's name, woven across his jersey, straggled and 
opened out as though they had been type badly set. Then he said 
with a little cluck in his throat, "Ah, me! It is blind. Hur ilia! That 
thing is blind," and a murmur of pity went through us all, for we 
could see that the thing on the water was blind and in pain. Some- 
thing had gashed and cut the great sides cruelly and the blood was 
spurting out. The grey ooze of the under-most sea lay in the mon- 
strous wrinkles of the back and poured away in sluices. The blind 
white head flung back and battered the wounds, and the body in its 
torment rose clear of the red and grey waves till we saw a pair 
of quivering shoulders streaked with weed and rough with shells, 
but as white in the clear spaces as the hairless, nameless, blind, 
toothless head. Afterwards came a dot on the horizon and the sound 
of a shrill scream, and it was as though a shuttle shot all across the 
sea in one breath, and a second head and neck tore through the 
levels, driving a whispering wall of water to right and left. The two 
Things met — the one untouched and the other in its death throe — 
male and female, we said, the female coming to the male. She circled 
round him bellowing, and laid her neck across the curve of his great 
turtle-back, and he disappeared under water for an instant, but flung 
up again, grunting in agony while the blood ran. Once the entire 
head and neck shot clear of the water and stiffened, and I heard 
Keller saying, as though he was watching a street accident, "Give 
him air. For God's sake give him air!" Then the death struggle be- 
gan, with crampings and twistings and jerkings of the white bulk to 
and fro, till our little steamer rolled again, and each grey wave coated 



112 



WORLDS BEYOND 



her plates with the grey slime. The sun was clear, there was no wind, 
and we watched, the whole crew, stokers and all, in wonder and pity, 
but chiefly pity. The Thing was so helpless, and, save for his mate, 
so alone. No human eye should have beheld him; it was monstrous 
and indecent to exhibit him there in trade waters between atlas de- 
grees of latitude. He had been spewed up, mangled and dying from 
his rest on the sea-floor, where he might have lived till the Judgment 
Day, and we saw the tides of his life go from him as an angry tide 
goes out across rocks in the teeth of a landward gale. 

At last the battle for life ended, in a batter of colored seas. We 
saw the writhing neck fall like a flail, the carcase turned sideways, 
showing the glint of a white belly and the inset of a gigantic hind-leg 
or flapper. Then all sank, and sea boiled over it, while the mate 
swam round and round, darting her blind head in every direction. 
Though we might have feared that she would attack the steamer, 
no power on earth could have drawn any one of us from our places 
that hour. We watched, holding our breaths. The mate paused in 
her search; we could hear the wash beating along her sides; reared her 
neck as high as she could reach, blind and lonely in all that loneliness 
of the sea, and sent one desperate bellow booming across the swells, 
as an oyster shell skips across a pond. Then she made off to the west- 
ward, the sun shining on the white head and the wake behind it, till 
nothing was left to see but a little pinpoint of silver on the horizon. 
We stood on our course again, and the Rathmines, coated with sea- 
sediment, from bow to stern, looked like a ship made grey with terror. 

"We must pool our notes," was the first coherent remark from 
Keller. "We're three trained journalists — we hold absolutely the big- 
gest scoop on record. Start fair." 

I objected to this. Nothing is gained by collaboration in journal- 
ism when all deal with the same facts, so we went to work each ac- 
cording to his own lights. Keller triple-headed his account, talked 
about our "gallant captain," and wound up with an allusion to Ameri- 
can enterprise in that it was a citizen of Dayton, Ohio, that had seen 
the sea-serpent. This sort of thing would have discredited the Crea- 
tion, much more a mere sea tale, but as a specimen of the picture- 
writing of a half-civilized people it was very interesting. Zuyland 



A MATTER OF FACT 



113 



took a heavy column and a half, giving approximate lengths and 
breadths and the whole list of the crew whom he had sworn on oath 
to testify to his facts. There was nothing fantastic or flamboyant 




in Zuyland. I wrote three-quarters of a leaded bourgeois column, 
roughly speaking, and refrained from putting any journalese into it 
for reasons that had begun to appear to me. 

Keller was insolent with joy. He was going to cable from South- 
ampton to the New York World, mail his account to America on the 
same day, paralyze London with his three columns of loosely knitted 



headlines, and generally efface the earth. "You'll see how I work 
a big scoop when I get it," he said. 

"Is this your first visit to England?" I asked. 

"Yes," said he. "You don't seem to appreciate the beauty of our 
scoop. It's pyramidal — the death of the sea-serpent! Good heavens 
alive man, it's the biggest thing ever vouchsafed to a paper!" 

"Curious to think that it will never appear in any paper, isn't it?" 
I said. 

Zuyland was near me, and he nodded quickly. 

"What do you mean?" said Keller. "If you're enough of a Brit- 
isher to throw this thing away, I shan't. I thought you were a news- 
paper man." 

"I am. That's why I know. Don't be an ass, Keller. Remember, 
I'm seven hundred years your senior, and what your grandchildren 
may learn five hundred years hence, I learned from my grandfathers 
about five hundred years ago. You won't do it, because you can't." 

This conversation was held in open sea, where everything seems 
possible, some hundred miles from Southampton. We passed the 
Needles Light at dawn, and the lifting day showed the stucco villas 
on the green and the awful orderliness of England — line upon line, 
wall upon wall, solid stone dock and monolithic pier. We waited an 
hour in the Customs shed, and there was ample time for the effect 
to soak in. 

"Now, Keller, you face the music. The Havel goes out today. 
Mail by her, and I'll take you to the telegraph office," I said. 

I heard Keller gasp as the influence of the land closed about him, 
cowing him as they say Newmarket Heath cows a young horse un- 
used to open country. . 





114 



WORLDS BEYOND 



"I want to retouch my stuff. Suppose we wait till we get to Lon- 
don?" he said. 

Zuyland, by the way, had torn up his account and thrown it over- 
board that morning early. His reasons were my reasons. 

In the train Keller began to revise his copy, and every time that he 
looked at the trim little fields, the red villas, and the embankments 
of the line, the blue pencil plunged remorselessly through the slips. 
He appeared to have dredged the dictionary for adjectives. I could 
think of none that he had not used. Yet he was a perfectly sound 
poker player and never showed more cards than were sufficient to 
take the pool. 

"Aren't you going to leave him a single bellow?" I asked sym- 
pathetically. "Remember, everything goes in the States, from a 
trouser-button to a double eagle." 

"That's just the curse of it," said Keller below his breath. "We've 
played 'em for suckers so often that when it comes to the golden 
truth — I'd like to try this on a London paper. You have first call 
there, though." 

"Not in the least. I'm not touching the thing in the papers. I shall 
be happy to leave 'em all to you; but surely you'll cable it home?" 

"No. Not if I can make the scoop here and see the Britishers sit 
up." 

"You won't do it with three columns of slushy headline, believe 
me. They don't sit up as quickly as some people." 

"I'm beginning to think that too. Does nothing make any difference 
in this country?" he said, looking out of the window. "How old is 
that farmhouse?" 

"New. It can't be more than two hundred years at the most." 

"Um. Fields, too?" 

"That hedge there must have been clipped for about eighty years." 
"Labor cheap — eh?" 

"Pretty much. Well, I suppose you'd like to try the Times, wouldn't 
you?" 

"No," said Keller, looking at Winchester Cathedral. "Might as 
well try to electrify a hay-rick. And to think that the World would 
take three columns and ask for more — with illustrations too! It's 
sickening." 



A MATTER OF FACT 



115 



"But the Times might," I began. 

Keller flung his paper across the carriage, and it opened in its 
austere majesty of solid type — opened with the crackle of an ency- 
clopedia. 

"Might! You might work your way through the bow-plates of a 
cruiser. Look at that first page!" 

"It strikes you that way, does it?" I said. "Then I'd recommend 
you to try a light and frivolous journal." 

"With a thing like this of mine — of ours? It's sacred history!" 

I showed him a paper which I conceived would be after his own 
heart, in that it was modeled on American lines. 

"That's homey," he said, "but it's not the real thing. Now, I 
should like one of these fat old Times columns. Probably there'd be 
a bishop in the office, though." 

When we reached London Keller disappeared in the direction of 
the Strand. What his experiences may have been I cannot tell, but 
it seems that he invaded the office of an evening paper at 1 1 :45 a.m. 
(I told him English editors were most idle at that hour), and men- 
tioned my name as that of a witness to the truth of his story. 

"I was nearly fired out," he said furiously at lunch. "As soon as I 
mentioned you, the old man said that I was to tell you that they 
didn't want any more of your practical jokes, and that you knew 
the hours to call if you had anything to sell, and that they'd see you 
condemned before they helped to puff one of your infernal yarns in 
advance. Say, what record do you hold for truth in this city, anyway?" 

"A beauty. You ran up against it, that's all. Why don't you leave 
the English papers alone and cable to New York? Everything goes 
over there." 

"Can't you see that's just why?" he repeated. 

"I saw it a long time ago. You don't intend to cable, then?" 

"Yes, I do," he answered, in the over-emphatic voice of one who 
does not know his own mind. 

That afternoon I walked him ahroad and about, over the streets 
that run between the pavements like channels of grooved and tongued 
lava, over the bridges that are made of enduring stone, through sub- 



116 



WORLDS BEYOND 



ways floored and sided with yard-thick concrete, between houses 
that are never rebuilt, and by river steps hewn to the eye from the 
living rock. A black fog chased us into Westminster Abbey, and, 
standing there in the darkness, I could hear the wings of the dead 
centuries circling round the head of Litchfield A. Keller, journalist, 
of Dayton, Ohio, U. S. A., whose mission it was to make the Brit- 
ishers sit up. 

He stumbled gasping into the thick gloom, and the roar of the 
traffic came to his bewildered ears. 

"Let's go to the telegraph office and cable," I said. "Can't you 
hear the New York World crying for news of the great sea-serpent, 
blind, white, and smelling of musk, stricken to death by a submarine 
volcano, assisted by his loving wife to die in mid-ocean, as visualized 
by an independent American citizen, a breezy, newsy, brainy news- 
paper man of Dayton, Ohio? 'Rah for the Buckeye State. Step live- 
ly! Both gates! Szz! Boom-ah!" 

Keller was a Princeton man, and he seemed to need encourage- 
ment. 

"You've got me on your own ground," said he, tugging at his 
overcoat pocket. He pulled out his copy, with the cable forms — for 
he had written out his telegram — and put them all into my hand, 
groaning, "I pass. If I hadn't come to your cursed country — if I'd 
sent it off at Southampton — if I ever get you west of the Alleghanies, 
if—" 

"Never mind, Keller. It isn't your fault. It's the fault of your coun- 
try. If you had been seven hundred years older you'd have done 
what I'm going to do." 

"What are you going to do?" 

"Tell it as a lie." 

"Fiction?" This with the full-blooded disgust of a journalist for 
the illegitimate branch of the profession. 

"You can call it that if you like. I shall call it a lie." 

And a lie it has become, for Truth is a naked lady, and if by ac- 
cident she is drawn up from the bottom of the sea, it behoves a 
gentleman either to give her a print petticoat or to turn his face to 
the wall, and vow that he did not see. 



by William Tenn 



MLL-P 



Not for George Abnego was the piddling triumph of non- 
Aristotelian logic or non-Euclidean geometry. For him, 
the unsought and undreamed-of miracle: non-Platonic 
politics — the everlasting rule of the Average Man! 

Several months after the Second Atomic War, when radioactivity 
still held one-third of the planet in desolation, Dr. Daniel Glurt of 
Fillmore Township, Wise, stumbled upon a discovery which was 
to generate humanity's ultimate sociological advance. 

Like Columbus, smug over his voyage to India, like Nobel, proud 
of the synthesis of dynamite which made combat between nations 
impossible, the doctor misinterpreted his discovery. Years later, he 
cackled to a visiting historian: 

"Had no idea it would lead to this, no idea at all. You remember, 
the war had just ended: we were feeling mighty subdued what with 
the eastern and western coasts of the United States practically sizzled 
away. Well, word came down from the new capitol at Topeka in 
Kansas for us doctors to give all our patients a complete physical 
check. Sort of be on the lookout, you know, for radioactive burns 
and them fancy new diseases the armies had been tossing back and 
forth. Well, sir, that's absolutely all I set out to do. I'd known 
George Abnego for over thirty years — treated him for chicken-pox 
and pneumonia and ptomaine poisoning. I'd never suspected!" . . . 

Having reported to Dr. Glurt's office immediately after work in 
accordance with the proclamation shouted through the streets by the 




117 



118 



WORLDS BEYOND 



county clerk, and having waited patiendy in line for an hour and a 
half, George Abnego was at last received into the small consulting 
room. Here he was thoroughly chest-thumped, X-rayed, blood- 
sampled and urinanalyzed. His skin was examined carefully, and he 
was made to answer the five hundred questions prepared by the De- 
partment of Health in a pathetic attempt to cover the symptoms of 
the new ailments. 

George Abnego then dressed and went home to the cereal supper 
permitted for that day by the ration board. Dr. Glurt placed his 
folder in a drawer and called for the next patient. He had noticed 
nothing up to this point; yet already he had unwittingly begun the 
Abnegite Revolution. 

Four days later, the health survey of Fillmore, Wise, being com- 
plete, the doctor forwarded the examination reports to Topeka. Just 
before signing George Abnego's sheet, he glanced at it cursorily, 
raised his eyebrows and entered the following note: "Despite the 
tendency to dental caries and athlete's foot, I would consider this 
man to be of average health. Physically, he is the Fillmore Town- 
ship norm." 

It was this last sentence which caused the government medical 
official to chuckle and glance at the sheet once more. His smile was 
puzzled after this; it was even more puzzled after he had checked 
the figures and statements on the form against standard medical 
references. 

He wrote a phrase in red ink in the right-hand corner and sent 
it along to Research. 

His name is lost to history. 

Research wondered why the report on George Abnego had been 
sent up — he had no unusual symptoms portending exotic innova- 
tions like cerebral measles or arterial trichinosis. Then it observed 
the phrase in red ink and Dr. Glurt's remark. Research shrugged 
its anonymous shoulders and assigned a crew of statisticians to go 
further into the matter. 

A week later, as a result of their findings, another crew — nine 
medical specialists — left for Fillmore. They examined George Ab- 
nego with coordinated precision. Afterwards, they called on Dr. 



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119 



Glurt briefly, leaving a copy of their examination report with him 
when he expressed interest. 

Ironically, the government copies were destroyed in the Topeka 
Hard-Shelled Baptist Riots a month later, the same riots which 
stimulated Dr. Glurt to launch the Abnegite Revolution. 

This Baptist denomination, because of population shrinkage due 
to atomic and bacteriological warfare, was now the largest single 
religious body in the nation. It was then controlled by a group 
pledged to the establishment of a Hard-Shelled Baptist theocracy 
in what was left of the United States. The rioters were quelled after 
much destruction and bloodshed; their leader, the Reverend Heming- 
way T. Gaunt — who had vowed that he would remove neither the 
pistol from his left hand nor the bible from his right until the Rule 
of God had been established and the Third Temple built — was sen- 
tenced to death by a jury composed of stern-faced fellow Baptists. 

Commenting on the riots, the Fillmore, Wise, Bugle-Herald drew a 
mournful parallel between the Topeka street battles and the destruc- 
tion wreaked upon the world by atomic conflict. 

"International communication and transportation having broken 
down," the editorial went on broodingly, "we now know little of the 
smashed world in which we live beyond such meager facts as the 
complete disappearance of Australia beneath the waves, and the con- 
traction of Europe to the Pyrenees and Ural Mountains. We know that 
our planet's physical appearance has changed as much from what it 
was ten years ago, as the infant monstrosities and mutants being born 
everywhere as a result of radioactivity are unpleasantly different from 
their parents. 

"Truly, in these days of mounting catastrophe and change, our 
faltering spirits beg the heavens for a sign, a portent, that all will be 
well again, that all will yet be as it once was, that the waters of dis- 
aster will subside and we shall once more walk upon the solid ground 
of normalcy." 

It was this last word which attracted Dr. Glurt's attention. That 
night, he slid the report of the special government medical crew into 
the newspaper's mail slot. He had penciled a laconic note in the 
margin of the first page: 

"Noticed your interest in the subject." 



120 



WORLDS BEYOND 



Next week's edition of the Fillmore Bugle-Herald flaunted a page 
one five-column headline. 

FILLMORE CITIZEN THE SIGN? 

Normal Man of Fillmore May Be Answer From Above 
Local Doctor Reveals Government Medical Secret 

The story that followed was liberally sprinkled with quotations 
taken equally from the government report and the Psalms of David. 
The startled residents of Fillmore learned that one George Abnego, 
a citizen unnoticed in their midst for almost forty years, was a living 
abstraction. Through a combination of circumstances no more re- 
markable than those producing a royal flush in stud poker, Abegno's 
physique, psyche and other miscellaneous attributes had resulted in 
that legendary creature — the statistical average. 

According to the last census taken before the war, George Abnego's 
height and weight were identical with the mean of the American 
adult male. He had married at the exact age — year, month, day — 
when statisticians had estimated the marriage of the average man 
took place; he had married a woman the average number of years 
younger than himself; his income as declared on his last tax state- 
ment was the average income for that year. The very teeth in his 
mouth tallied in quantity and condition with those predicted by the 
American Dental Association to be found on a man extracted at 
random from the population. Abnego's metabolism and blood pres- 
sure, his bodily proportions and private neuroses, were all cross-sec; 
tions of the latest available records. Subjected to every psychologi- 
cal and personality test available, his final, overall grade corrected 
out to show that he was both average and normal. 

Finally, Mrs. Abnego had been recently delivered of their third 
child, a boy. This development had not only occurred at exactly the 
right time according to the population indices, but it had resulted in 
an entirely normal sample of humanity — unlike most babies being 
born throughout the land. 

The Bugle-Herald blared its hymn to the new celebrity around a 
greasy photograph of the family in which the assembled Abnegos 



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121 



stared glassily out at the reader, looking, as many put it, "Average — 
average as hell!" 

Newspapers in other states were invited to copy. 

They did, slowly at first, then with an accelerating, contagious 
enthusiasm. Indeed, as the intense public interest in this symbol of 
stability, this refugee from the extremes, became manifest, news- 
paper columns gushed fountains of purple prose about the "Norma! 
Man of Fillmore." 

At Nebraska State University, Professor Roderick Klingmeister 
noticed that many members of his biology class were wearing extra- 
large buttons decorated with pictures of George Abnego. "Before 
beginning my lecture," he chuckled, "I would like to tell you that 
this 'normal man' of yours is no Messiah. All he is, I am afraid, 
is a bell-shaped curve with ambitions, the median made flesh — " 

He got no further. He was brained with his own demonstration 
microscope. 

Even that early, a few watchful politicians noticed that no one was 
punished for this hasty act. 

The incident could be related to many others which followed: 
the unfortunate and unknown citizen of Duluth, for example, who — 
at the high point of that city's "Welcome, Average Old Abnego" 
parade- — was heard to remark in good-natured amazement, "Why, 
he's just an ordinary jerk like you and me," and was immedi- 
ately torn into celebratory confetti by horrified neighbors in the 
crowd. 

Developments such as these received careful consideration from 
men whose power was derived from the just, if well-directed, consent 
of the governed. 

George Abnego, these gentry concluded, represented the matura- 
tion of a great national myth which, implicit in the culture for over 
a century, had been brought to garish fulfilment by the mass com- 
munication and entertainment media. 

This was the myth that began with the juvenile appeal to be "A 
Normal Red-Blooded American Boy" and ended, on the highest 
political levels, with a shirt-sleeved, suspendered seeker after politi- 
cal office boasting, "Shucks, everybody knows who I am. I'm folks — 
just plain folks." 



WORLDS BEYOND 



This was the myth from which were derived such superficially dis- 
parate practices as the rite of political baby-kissing, the cult of 
"keeping up with the Joneses," the foppish, foolish, forever-changing 
fads which went through the population with the monotonous regu- 
larity and sweep of a windshield wiper. The myth of styles and fra- 
ternal organizations. The myth of the "regular fellow." 

There was a presidential election that year. 

Since all that remained of the United States was the Middle West, 
the Democratic Party had disappeared. Its remnants had been ab- 
sorbed by a group calling itself the Old Guard Republicans, the 
closest thing to an American Left. The party in power — the Con- 
servative Republicans — so far right as to verge upon royalism, had 
acquired enough pledged theocratic votes to make them smug about 
the election. 

Desperately, the Old Guard Republicans searched for a candi- 
date. Having regretfully passed over the adolescent epileptic re- 
cently elected to the governorship of South Dakota in violation of 
the state constitution — and deciding against the psalm-singing grand- 
mother from Oklahoma who punctuated her senatorial speeches with 
religious music upon the banjo — the party strategists arrived, one 
summer afternoon, in Fillmore, Wisconsin. 

From the moment that Abnego was persuaded to accept the nomi- 
nation and his last well-intentioned but flimsy objection was over- 
come (the fact that he was a registered member of the opposition 
party), it was obvious that the tide of battle had turned, that the 
fabled grass roots had caught fire. 

Abnego ran for President on the slogan "Back to Normal with the 
Normal Man!" 

By the time the Conservative Republicans met in conference as- 
sembled, the danger of loss by landslide was already apparent. They 
changed their tactics, tried to meet the attack head-on and imagina- 
tively. 

They nominated a hunchback for the presidency. This man suf- 
fered from the additional disability of being a distinguished professor 
of law in a leading university; he had married with no issue and di- 
vorced with much publicity; and finally, he had once admitted to a 



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123 



congressional investigating committee that he had written and pub- 
lished surrealist poetry. Posters depicting him leering horribly, his 
hump twice life-size, were smeared across the country over the slo- 
gan: "An Abnormal Man for an Abnormal World!" 

Despite this brilliant political stroke, the issue was never in doubt. 
On Election Day, the nostalgic slogan defeated its medicative ad- 
versary by three to one. Four years later, with the same opponents, 
it had risen to five and a half to one. And there was no organized 
opposition when Abnego ran for a third term. . . . 

Not that he had crushed it. There was more casual liberty of po- 
litical thought allowed during Abnego's administrations than in many 
previous ones. But less political thinking was done. 

Whenever possible, Abnego avoided decision. When a decision 
was unavoidable, he made it entirely on the basis of precedent. He 
rarely spoke on a topic of current interest and never committed him- 
self. He was garrulous and exhibitionistic only about his family. 

"How can you lampoon a vacuum?" This had been the wail of 
many opposition newspaper writers and cartoonists during the early 
years of the Abnegite Revolution, when men still ran against Abnego 
at election time. They tried to draw him into ridiculous statements 
or admissions time and again without success. Abnego was simply 
incapable of saying anything that any major cross-section of the 
population would consider ridiculous. 

Emergencies? "Well," Abnego had said, in the story every school- 
child knew, "I've noticed even the biggest forest fire will burn itself 
out. Main thing is not to get excited." 

He made them lie down in low blood-pressure areas. And, after 
years of building and destruction, of stimulation and conflict, of ac- 
celerating anxieties and torments, they rested and were humbly 
grateful. 

It seemed to many, from the day Abnego was sworn in, that chaos 
began to waver and everywhere a glorious, welcome stability flow- 
ered. In some respects, such as the decrease in the number of mon- 
strous births, processes were under way which had nothing at all to 
do with the Normal Man of Fillmore; in others — the astonished an- 
nouncement by lexicographers, for example, that slang expressions 
peculiar to teen-agers in Abnego's first term were used by their 



124 



WORLDS BEYOND 



children in exactly the same contexts eighteen years later in his fifth 
administration — the historical leveling-out and patting-down effects 
of the Abnegite trowel were obvious. 

The verbal expression of this great calm was the Abnegism. 

History's earliest record of these deftly phrased inadequacies re- 
lates to the administration in which Abnego, at last feeling secure 
enough to do so, appointed a cabinet without any regard to the wishes 
of his party hierarchy. A journalist, attempting to point up the abso- 
lute lack of color in the new official family, asked if any one of them 
— from Secretary of State to Postmaster-General — had ever commit- 
ted himself publicly on any issue or, in previous positions, had been 
responsible for a single constructive step in any direction. 

To which the President supposedly replied with a bland, unhesi- 
tating smile, "I always say there's no hard feelings if no one's de- 
feated. Well, sir, no one's defeated in a fight where the referee can't 
make a decision." 

Apocryphal though it may have been, this remark expressed the 
mood of Abnegite America perfectly. "As pleasant as a no-decision 
bout" became part of everyday language. 

Certainly as apocryphal as the George Washington cherry-tree 
legend, but the most definite Abnegism of them all was the one at- 
tributed to the President after a performance of Romeo and Juliet. 
"It is better not to have loved at all, than to have loved and lost," 
he is reported to have remarked at the morbid end of the play. 

At the inception of Abnego's sixth term — the first in which his 
oldest son served with him as vice-president — a group of Europeans 
re-opened trade with the United States by arriving in a cargo ship 
assembled from the salvaged parts of three sunken destroyers and 
one capsized aircraft carrier. 

Received everywhere with undemonstrative cordiality, they traveled 
the country, amazed at the placidity — the almost total absence of 
political and military excitement on the one hand, and the rapid 
technological retrogression on the other. One of the emissaries suf- 
ficiently mislaid his diplomatic caution to comment before he left: 

"We came to America, to these cathedrals of industrialism, in the 
hope that we would find solutions to many vexing problems of ap- 



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125 



plied science. These problems — the development of atomic power 
for factory use, the application of nuclear fission to such small arms 
as pistols and hand grenades — stand in the way of our postwar re- 
covery. But you, in what remains of the United States of America, 
don't even see what we, in what remains of Europe, consider so com- 
plex and pressing. Excuse me, but what you have here is a national 
trance!" 

His American hosts were not offended: they received his expostu- 
lations with polite smiles and shrugs. The delegate returned to tell 
his countrymen that the Americans, always notorious for their mad- 
ness, had finally specialized in cretinism. 

But another delegate who had observed widely and asked many 
searching questions went back to his native Toulouse (French cul- 
ture had once more coagulated in Provence) to define the philosophi- 
cal foundations of the Abnegite Revolution. 

In a book which was read by the world with enormous interest, 
Michel Gaston Fouffnique, sometime Professor of History at the 
Sorbonne, pointed out that while twentieth-century man had escaped 
from the narrow Greek formulations sufficiently to visualize a non- 
Aristotelian logic and a non-Euclidean geometry, he had not yet had 
the intellectual temerity to creat a non-Platonic system of politics. 
Not until Abnego. 

"Since the time of Socrates," wrote Monsieur Fouffnique, "Man's 
political viewpoints have been in thrall to the conception that the best 
should govern. How to determine that 'best,' the scale of values to 
be used in order that the 'best' and not mere undifferentiated 'bet- 
ters' should rule — these have been the basic issues around which 
have raged the fires of political controversy for almost three millen- 
nia. Whether an aristocracy of birth or intellect should prevail is an 
argument over values; whether rulers should be determined by the 
will of a god as determined by the entrails of a hog, or selected by 
the whole people on the basis of a ballot tally — these are alternatives 
in method. But hitherto no political system has ventured away from 
the implicit and unexamined assumption first embodied in the philoso- 
pher-state of Plato's Republic. 

"Now, at last, America has turned and questioned the pragmatic 
validity of the axiom. The young democracy to the west, which in- 



WORLDS BEYOND 



troduced the concept of the Rights of Man to jurisprudence, now 
gives a feverish world the Doctrine of the Lowest Common Denomi- 
nator in government. According to this doctrine as I have come to 
understand it through prolonged observation, it is not the worst who 
should govern — as many of my prejudiced fellow-delegates insist — 
but the mean: what might be termed the 'unbest' or the 'non-elite.'" 

Situated amid the still-radioactive rubbish of modern war, the 
people of Europe listened devoutly to readings from Fouffnique's 
monograph. They were enthralled by the peaceful monotonies said 
to exist in the United States and bored by the academician's reasons 
thereto: that a governing group who knew to begin with that they 
were "unbest" would be free of the myriad jealousies and conflicts 
arising from the need to prove individual superiority, and that such 
a group would tend to smooth any major quarrel very rapidly be- 
cause of the dangerous opportunities created for imaginative and re- 
sourceful people by conditions of struggle and strain. 

There were oligarchs here and bosses there; in one nation an an- 
cient religious order still held sway, in another, calculating and bril- 
liant men continued to lead the people. But the word was preached. 
Shamans appeared in the population, ordinary-looking folk who 
were called "abnegos." Tyrants found it impossible to destroy these 
shamans, since they were not chosen for any special abilities but 
simply because they represented the median of a given group: the 
middle of any population grouping, it was found, lasts as long as the 
group itself. Therefore, through bloodshed and much time, the ab- 
negos spread their philosophy and flourished. 

Oliver Abnego, who became the first President of the World, was 
President Abnego VI of the United States of America. His wife, 
Gertrude, presided — as vice-president — over a Senate composed 
mostly of his uncles and his cousins and his aunts. They and their 
numerous offspring lived in an economy which had deteriorated very, 
very slightly from the conditions experienced by the founder of their 
line. 

As world president, Oliver Abnego approved only one measure — 
that granting preferential university scholarships to students whose 
grades were closest to their age-group median all over the planet. 
The President could hardly have been accused of originality and in- 



NULL-P 



novation unbecoming to his high office, however, since for some time 
now all reward systems — scholastic, athletic and even industrial — 
had been adjusted to recognition of the most average achievement 
while castigating equally the highest and lowest scores. 

When the usable oil gave out shortly afterwards, men turned with 
perfect calmness to coal. The last turbines were placed in museums 
while still in operating condition: the people they served felt then- 
isolated and individual use of electricity was too ostentatious for good 
Abnegism. 

Outstanding cultural phenomena of this period were carefully 
rhymed and exactly metered poems addressed to the nondescript 
beauties and vague charms of a wife or sweetheart. Had not anthro- 
pology disappeared long ago, it would have become a matter of com- 
mon knowledge that there was a startling tendency to uniformity 
everywhere in such qualities as bone structure, features and pigmen- 
tation, not to mention intelligence, musculature and personality. 
Humanity was breeding rapidly and unconsciously in towards its 
center. 

Nonetheless, just before the exhaustion of coal, there was a brief 
sputter of intellect among a group who established themselves on a 
site northwest of Cairo. These Nilotics, as they were known, con- 
sisted mostly of unreconstructed dissidents expelled by their com- 
munities, with a leavening of the mentally ill and the physically 
handicapped; they had at their peak an immense number of techni- 
cal gadgets and yellowing books culled from crumbling museums 
and libraries the world over. 

Intensely ignored by their fellow-men, the Nilotics carried on 
shrill and interminable debates while plowing their muddy fields just 
enough to keep alive. They concluded that they were the only sur- 
viving heirs of homo sapiens, the bulk of the world's population now 
being composed of what they termed homo abnegus. 

Man's evolutionary success, they concluded, had been due chiefly 
to his lack of specialization. While other creatures had been forced 
to standardize to a particular and limited environment, mankind had 
been free for a tremendous spurt, until ultimately it had struck an 
environmental factor which demanded the price all viable forms had 
to pay eventually — specialization. 



128 



WORLDS BEYOND 



Having come this far in discussion, the Nilotics determined to use 
the ancient weapons at their disposal to save homo abnegus from 
himself. However, violent disagreements over the methods of re- 
education to be employed, led them to a bloody internecine conflict 
with those same weapons in the course of which the entire colony 
was destroyed and its site made untenable for life. About this time, 
his coal used up, Man re-entered the broad, self-replenishing forests. 

The reign of homo abnegus endured for a quarter of a million 
years. It was disputed finally — and successfully — by a group of New- 
foundland retrievers who had been marooned on an island in Hudson 
Bay when the cargo vessel transporting them to new owners had 
sunk back in the twentieth century. 

These sturdy and highly intelligent dogs, limited perforce to each 
other's growling society for several hundred millennia, learned to 
talk in much the same manner that mankind's simian ancestors had 
learned to walk when a sudden shift in botany destroyed their ancient 
arboreal homes — out of boredom. Their wits sharpened further by 
the hardships of their bleak island, their imaginations stimulated by 
the cold, the articulate retrievers built a most remarkable canine 
civilization in the Arctic before sweeping southward to enslave and 
eventually domesticate humanity. 

Domestication took the form of breeding men solely for their 
ability to throw sticks and other objects, the retrieving of which was 
a sport still popular among the new masters of the planet, however 
sedentary certain erudite individuals might have become. 

Highly prized as pets were a group of men with incredibly thin 
and long arms; another school of retrievers, however, favored a stocky 
breed whose arms were short, but extremely sinewy; while, occasion- 
ally, interesting results were obtained by inducing rickets for a few 
generations to produce a pet whose arms were sufficiently limber as to 
appear almost boneless. This last type, while intriguing both estheti- 
cally and scientifically, was generally decried as a sign of decadence 
in the owner as Well as a functional insult to the animal. 

Eventually, of course, the retriever civilization developed machines 
which could throw sticks farther, faster and with more frequency. 
Thereupon, except in the most backward canine communities, Man 
disappeared. 



(Continued from inside front cover) 



Judith Merril is an efficient and determined young woman who 
has made an enviable place for herself in the science-fantasy field 
from a standing start just five years ago. Her Bantam Books an- 
thology, Shot In the Dark sold half a million copies; her novel. 
Shadow On the Hearth (Doubleday. 1950), has been chosen for 
early distribution by the Fiction Book Club; and her short stories, 
among them the memorable That Only a Mother .... have ap- 
peared in most of the adult magazines in the field. Miss Merril 
(whose legal name is Mrs. Frederik Pohl) recently became the 
mother of a six-pound, fourteen-ounce baby girl. 

R. E. Morrough, doubtless without intention, has become a man 
of mystery. "Naam" is from a collection of his short stories pub- 
lished under the title, The Temple Servant, by Longmans Green in 
1930. Since then his agents have lost track of him. and no infor- 
mation about him will be forthcoming until they discover his present 
whereabouts. 

William Tenn is a serious, bespectacled young man with a talent 
for high comedy. This warring nature has landed him in a series of 
occupations notably diverse even for a writer; he has been, among 
other things, a merchant marine purser, a waiter, a department 
store salesman, a technical editor, and an Army interpreter of Serbo- 
Croatian stationed in Germany. This last was the climax of his 
army career, during the course of which he took basic training under 
every command except the Military Police and the Judge Advocate 
General, was a bridge carpenter until he fell off his second bridge 
and a rigger until it was discovered that the only knot he could tie 
was a bow. 

His major claim to immortality consists in having written his 
first science-fiction story, which dealt with a radarcast to the Moon, 
three months before the historic experiment was actually made. 



AT YOUR NEWSSTAND SOON.. 



STORY OF A RUSSIAN SPY 

By ALEXANDER FOOTE 

"I was for three vital years of the war a member 
and, to a large extent, controller of the Russian spy net 
in Switzerland which was working against Germany . . . 
I was a key link in a network whose lines reached into 
the heart of the German high command itself . . ." 

With these words Alexander Foote opens his amazing but 
factual story of Soviet espionage. He describes his initia- 
tion into Russian secret service, his first missions inside 
Germany just before the war, and his work in Switzerland 
as assistant resident director of the Swiss Soviet spy ring. 

Since severing his connections with the Russian espionage 
net, Alexander Foote has worked in a British Government 
office in London, and his vivid memoirs are unmarred by 
political preaching. Story of a Russian Spy is at the same 
time a social document of great importance, and an un- 
matched adventure story. 



OTHER BOOKS NOW AVAILABLE IN 254 EDITION 
AT YOUR NEWSSTAND 



MEET MR. MULLINER, by P. G. Wodehouse 
NOTHING MORE THAN MURDER, by Jim Thompson 

And the amazing fantasy novel — 

THE DYING EARTH, by Jack Vance